Served at the beginning of the magazine, the self-contained story that is page 23 of Luncheon is an ideal aperitif. This isn’t a (laboured) metaphor: the editors of Luncheon organise their contents page as if it were an a la carte menu, with bitesize features at the beginning and end of the magazine and all the rich, 10-page spreads of meatier stuff occupying the middle.
The London-based magazine has expanded its menu of contents into veritable smorgasbord of cultural offerings. Issue eight contains 284 wonderfully curated pages of art, music, photography, interviews, and recipes, all printed on Luncheon’s trademark massive pages. With stories filed under ‘hors d’oeuvres, specials, main course and classics’, reading the magazine is like having long lunch with a (rather culturally astute) friend.
Page 23 is rich for an aperitif, a dry sherry rather than a rosé. I won’t spoil the ending of the great story below the image, but it concerns Wilton’s, the Jermyn street establishment that’s been skipping around the St James’ area since 1742. For those unaffected by the lure of famous chefs or celebrity clientele, it’s the perfect spot for lunch. Its patrons come for old school luxe: oysters, caviar omelettes, fine wine and a good bisque.
The main attraction of this Page 23 feature is undeniably its artwork, a photograph of a painting that hangs above the bar at Wilton’s. Painted by Ruskin Spear and titled ‘The Ambassador’s Wife’, apparently passersby can never resist commenting. It’s not hard to see why.
Weighed down by jewellery, and with her crimson hair, lips, tongue and nails, the Ambassador’s Wife is no wallflower. A spoonful of smudgy piggy-pink mousse (‘perhaps the restaurant’s famous Lobster Cocktail’) is on the brink of being engulfed by her red mouth. It’s just pink paint, but it’s been smeared on the canvas in such a way that it looks convincingly edible – even if it’s impossible to decipher just what exactly ‘it’ might be. Despite its stylisation, the scene is so real-looking that it feels rude to stare.
That’s the main draw of this image for me; it has caught a split-second private moment of indulgence. The ambassador’s wife has her eyes are closed, and yet you half expect her to look up suddenly, to catch you staring.
This is what Luncheon do best, a feast for the eyes. Aside from page 23, don’t miss Germano Celant’s essay on Poetry and Painting (page 162) that features cover artist William N. Copley. Other favourites of mine include a funny interview with chefs Margot and Fergus Henderson on page 281, and Ajamu and Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s photographic work and accompanying interview on pages 134-147.
As ever, a fantastic read. If your eyes are bigger than your stomach, Luncheon’s content-rich menu is for you.
Editor-in-chief/creative director: Frances von Hofmannsthal
Art director: Giulia Garbin