"It's an old English tradition," Jenny Armit says in her husky yet proper British accent. "When I opened for business last October, I just imported the idea over here." Armit is the owner of a contemporary furniture gallery in Los Angeles; the idea she imported is that of hosting meals to bring together her clients, such as Timothy Dalton and French consul Guy Yelda, and the artists whose work she sells. Call it a case of lunch imitating art.
For these get-togethers, which she holds every six weeks or so, Armit likes the atmosphere to be relaxed and comfortable. Her dog, Otis, a lurcher, is often in residence. Guests sit around a gunmetal gray table crafted by Elizabeth Paige Smith on antique brass chairs reupholstered by fabric designer Celia Birtwell. Items from the gallery, such as Venetian glassware by the artist Laura De Santillana, often appear on the table, while museum-caliber furnishings made by other well-known European craftsmen, including British glass designer Danny Lane and metalworker Mark Brazier-Jones, can be spotted nearby.
For this lunch, Anthony Roselli, chef at Orso in Los Angeles, planned a menu that could be quickly executed in the gallery's yellow-tiled open kitchen. Following a fennel, arugula and goat cheese salad and an aromatic roasted chicken with oregano and Parmesan, guests were served a well-chilled Sauternes, a typical Armit touch. (She has bottles shipped from a cellar in London that she stocks with the help of her ex-husband, John Armit, a British wine writer and merchant.)
Needless to say, among the artists and celebrities on her carefully-guarded client list, Armit's parties are a raging success. "People call me up all the time!" she reports. "They say, 'I hear you give lunches. When can we come?'"