I was first introduced to the beautiful world of Puiforcat a couple of winters ago when I was invited for dinner at Il Vino in Paris' 7ème, to celebrate the launch of their new sommelier collection created in collaboration with restaurant owner and top sommelier, Enrico Bernardo. Founded almost two centuries ago in the French capital, Puiforcat creates works of art from silver in the form of tableware, glasseware, cutlery, tea and coffee services. Items have been collected by the likes of Andy Warhol and been present at presidential dinners; a testament to the brand's unique quality, craftsmanship and reputation. Puiforcat is as we British might say (because I’ve never heard a Frenchman or woman say it, have you?), la crème de la crème of silversmithing. Jean Puiforcat, a fourth generation family member and founding member of the Union of Modern Artists, who had a big hand in creating the Puiforcat of today, is regarded as the most important French Art Deco silversmith, and that's saying something.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend another Puiforcat event – this time in Beijing, China. An invitation to a beautiful dinner in Beijing? I think I read the email 3 times to make sure I wasn't imagining it. China has been on my travel hit-list for a very long time. Work has been crazy recently, and I don’t have much time to jet-off to new destinations, even if they are work-related, but when this popped into my inbox, I couldn’t turn down.
Following a nine hour flight and an hour's drive into the city via a traffic-chocked motorway, overlooked by a burning red sun that would peep behind buildings every so often, we arrived in China's capital. We checked into the Waldorf Astoria – a beautifully designed hotel befitting of the Puiforcat brand - and after a quick re-fresh, were whisked off to dinner at 1949 The Hidden City to feast on the best Pekin duck I’ve ever had in my life. Which made sense considering where I was, but nonetheless I need to express how good it was, because it was just.so.good! We sat on a huge round table with a Lazy Susan in the middle – which obviously produced various smirks from the party, as we took it in turns to (a little too) politely swivel the food towards us to grab another morsel of duck. I'm betting I wasn't the only one restraining my inner child, which desperately wanted to see how fast it might spin!
Waking up in Beijing the following day was dreamlike, not merely for the breakfast options – dim sum and noodles…but also for the huge hotel room, where for a moment I'd forgotten where I was upon opening the curtains to view this strange new world of hazy sky and neon flashing Chinese symbols, adorning a luxury department store that I could see from my window.
After donning a new Ganni dress and sock boots, I eagerly hopped in the car so we could be driven to our first destination - the Hermès showroom - and gawk wide-eyed out of the window at passing buildings and people. We were greeted by a tray of silver Puiforcat champagne beakers on arrival, which I happily accepted, but don't think I drank one sip as I was too mesmerised by the sumptuous caramel leather Hermès sofas, wooden armchairs (this one in particular), Puiforcat’s art deco tea set and the huge dining table adorned with the brand's finest service-ware. After a talk from Puiforcat's President, Hélène Dubrule and Enrico Bernardo about the Sommelier Collection, we headed to lunch inside a beautiful traditional Beijing house owned by the Waldorf Astoria. There we dined on Puiforcat dinner plates, and enjoyed wine in Puiforcat glasses that had been expertly picked by Enrico Bernardo. It was one of those, surreal - how-did-I-get-here? moments!
The rest of the trip was spent exploring the Forbidden City, which we cycled to from Tiananmen Square. Highly recommended (the bike), the Forbidden City visit is a no-brainer. Bartering with traders at the Antiques Market – done by expert-haggler Lorraine. I was far too jet-lagged at that point and happily drifted sleepily through the aisles of precious stones, wood carvings and baskets. And a very early wake-up call to visit the Great Wall of China - a mind-blowing experience, which I can finally tick off the bucket-list. Oh and attending an Hermès scarf event, which happened to take place while we where there, followed by some of the best dim sum I ever eaten.
Many thanks to Puiforcat for making this trip possible.
Beijing Address Book:
- 1949 The Hidden City - mouth-watering Peking Duck which is served in a duck dish and announced with a gong
- Din Tai Fung - amazing dim sum
- Susu - very tasty Vietnamese restaurant hidden down a small alley (order the nems and papaya salad)
- 798 Arts District - area filled with galleries, cafés and restaurants
- Forbidden City
- Antiques Market
- Great Wall of China
WHAT I WORE: