November 30, 2012 7:05 pm

The last word on extravagance

Do I often go to extravagant parties and what are they like? I have been to some events best described as ‘a bit over the top’

Sir David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

Occasionally, we hear of great extravagant parties thrown by the super-rich that some of us can only glimpse at in glossy magazines such as OK! and Hello. Do you often go to these events and what are they like?

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David Tang

I have been to one or two of these events, which might best be described as “a bit over the top”. When they are, I will be outwardly profuse in admiration, polite to my host; and inwardly rather supercilious, to retain my sanity. The problem is that the bigger the event, the more certain it will be designed and conceived by some “professional party planner” and not the host. And I am not talking about the Pippa Middletons of the Home Counties but international Caligulas who have no compunction in spending other people’s money for the sheer gratification of the ego of the paymaster. But the world is at its best when it is at its most free. So who am I to criticise those who can afford to blow the occasional millions? It is undoubtedly luxurious to be treated at a glittering dinner to, say, performances by Cirque du Soleil or Elton John or Lionel Richie “dancing on the ceiling”. But some of us often oscillate between feeling guilty of excesses and being lucky enough to be invited to these jamborees. What is definitely nauseating, however, is listening to all the sycophantic guests gushing about it afterwards. You know the kind of idiotic and clichéd hyperboles: “Wow, that was unbelievable!”, or “You have never seen anything so incredible in your life!”, or worst of all, “That must have cost a fortune!”. These pathetic postmortems give pathology a bad name.

I enjoyed your recent response regarding the garish and completely unacceptable practice of grand pianos in the home (with certain exceptions). This is a view on basic taste with which I wholeheartedly agree. I am curious as to whether or not you take the same view on certain types of canines, for instance the white standard poodle.

I am a dog lover, but I stop at loving poodles, particularly those that have been fashioned into topiaries or bonsais. When they are large and white and wear ribbons and appear at Crufts, I always manage to identify their owners, usually old women who do not think that they are old, but are in fact pretty shrivelled. Otherwise, they are plastered with enough make-up to have run out at Mardi Gras. Furthermore, poodles have a very fierce temperament that belies their dainty appearance, and when they start gnashing their teeth, they look particularly sinister. When these horrible large and white and trimmed poodles appear under a white piano in a whitewashed mansion, you can bet your life that the owners are people whom those of us in possession of a modicum of taste would not wish to see or ever mix with. It’s like the worst of Essex.

Your answer to one of the emails sent to you about your column on Peruvian cuisine reminds me of a cheating husband caught having an affair, whose only defence is denial, denial and counterattacking on a topic that has nothing to do with the subject matter; a tactic that actually sometimes works. The point is not that readers do not tolerate criticism of their national cuisine, the point is that you have written a piece in an offensive tone on an issue you know nothing about; and it so happens you are wrong on this one, given how good Peruvian cooking is. Voilà.

By coincidence, I was taken off last week by my good friend Arjun Waney, one of the cleverest Indian swanks around London and irritatingly successful with Zuma and The Arts Club, to his new Peruvian restaurant Coya in a rather grand mansion on Piccadilly. All the ingredients his chef used were crisply fresh and each dish was salivatingly delicious, with gastronomic subtleties I had not tasted before. I was ambushed by a serendipity and came to realise that I would have to eat my derogatory words on Peruvian cuisine. I was also told off, along with several correspondents, by my good friend Mario Testino, who happened to be in Hong Kong last week for one of those party extravaganzas, for being absurdly ignorant in my recent column. As Mario owns a Peruvian restaurant in Lima and is someone whom I identify with taste, I soon realised that my damning judgment on Peruvian food might well have been overhasty. So now I hope Peruvians will become my new best friends! Mind you, their taste in Apache clothes and the knitted beanie hats is something else ...

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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