It’s not everyday you have your girlfriend’s permission to stare at another girl’s boobs, and it wasn’t even my birthday. But that, happily for me, was the whole point of the life drawing part* of a new entrepreneurial venture from sisters, Charlotte and Annabel Partridge. Supper in a Pear Tree, to adopt a sporting cliché, is a game of two halves; a life drawing session first and a two course sit down dinner second. And at £30 and BYOB, a game of excellent value too.
*other than drawing the rest of her, obviously.
It’s a fairly alternative night from the beginning. You arrive at the metal gates of the Battersea Business Centre just off Lavender Hill, tap in a code and head inside a dimly lit compound. You make your way up a set of fire escape stairs to the first floor of the ominously titled Unit 101. And there is definitely something a bit Nineteen Eighty-Four up to this point. You enter a brightly lit corridor, knock on a wooden door and when it opens, you expect to see your worst nightmare – Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney with metal chains in latex bondage gear, pointing towards a cold set of railings with police handcuffs, saying, “This will be our little secret, Ed”. But you are, in fact, welcomed into a warm room by Annabel in chef whites, who puts a glass of wine in your one hand, and Charlotte, who places a stick of charcoal in the other and shows you to an easel. Phew.
And then, breasts! Without warning, my eyes find themselves looking beyond the circle of easels to a platform where our subject for the evening is stood. Lovely breasts; nurturing, maternal and real, glowing in the presence of the overhead lamp.
Shit. With a troubled expression, I glance over at L. I remember the Commandment: Thou shalt not look at any other boobies other than thy girlfriend’s.
Am I allowed to look? I mean, am I supposed to draw the boobs?
Well, L has brought us here, so surely it’s okay, and she’s already drawing for crying out loud.
A booming voice from the heavens said: “Be brave, young Edward, thou shalt draw the boobies.”
“Ok. Thanks, God. And the fanny?”
“Hmm. Yes, and the fanny. If thou so wishes.”
And, I have to confess; it was all a bit much. I was lost in a wilderness of uncertainty. When the model stepped down from her plinth to bring the first session to a close, I had only managed to draw the overhead lamp.
Fortunately Charlotte, put me, and a lot of others, out of our misery and gathered us round her easel to demonstrate how it should be done.
We were instructed to see our nude model as an object – a marble sculpture to be precise. And, just as a sculptor chips away from a large block to create form, so we should apply the same approach when drawing with charcoal.
So, during the next session, I was braver. No longer did I see boobs, nor did I draw the lamp. No. I saw a marble sculpture with light and shade, and I did draw.
At the end of the first part of the evening, I looked at my work of art: a rather male looking representation of the model it must be said and I remembered there was a reason I studied the history of art rather than being practically involved with it. I’d even given her a movember for goodness sake. Still, it was a marked improvement on my first effort.
I went over to inspect L’s work, ready to provide a helpful critique. ‘Ahem’, I coughed, importantly. But, as a came round the easel, there wasn’t anything to be helpfully critical of; I was greeted with a bloody masterpiece – judge for yourselves.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to chew on my mixture of pride and jealousy for too long as the canapés arrived. And we were onto part two of the evening.
Our class left the easels and headed into an adjacent studio where a long table had been rustically laid with candles in wine bottles amongst nude plaster figures on a stripy red tablecloth.
Now, I’m not a foodie, so I’m going to be doing Annabel a disservice here but the cooking was excellent, especially considering her kitchen is somewhere along the outer studio corridors and I’m fairly certain it doesn’t live up to the standards of Petersham Nurseries during her days as Sous Chef there.
Our emulation of the Renaissance masters in our artistic endeavours earlier was echoed in the classic Italian theme of the food. The rich, meaty pasta main could have been right out of a Florentine ‘dis is a my mama’s special recipe’ style restaurant.
For each course Annabel gives you a little story behind them. The best being the tale of the Italian killer bees who sound like Winnie the Pooh’s Room 101, mercilessly attacking those who climb the cliff faces to try to steal their produce. Annabel must have been one of the lucky ones who survived because that honey could be found in our tart that very night, and served up with a complimentary mead (a drink I’d only come across in ancient history and Lord of the Rings). I had seconds.
A great evening in all, and your party bag at the end consists of your drawings, which Mum will love for Christmas.
Supper in a Pear Tree only runs on the first Thursday of each month, so book well in advance. The next evening is on 6th December. To book email email@example.com. Apparently they also do Hen nights with male models. Thou shalt draw the penis, ladies.
By Edward Lines