Lilian Fendig (1912 -1985) was a talented British born water colourist and painter of landscapes, harbour scenes, village scenes and still life who found moderate fame in Indiana and its neighbouring states in the USA in the 1950s, until her death in 1985. During WWll, the Hornsey School of Arts and Crafts trained artist was in charge of rehabilitation projects at UK based American Station Hospitals. There she met her future second husband, Ralph Fendig, an American soldier and pharmacist. In 1948 they moved back to his native Rensselaer in Indiana, where she worked and lived for the rest of her life. To this day, there is the Lilian Fendig Gallery and the Ralph and Lilian Fendig Summer Theatre for Children in this small Midwest town on the Iroquois River.
Lilian was not new to local fame; in the 1910s and 20s, she was somewhat of a child star featuring together with her sister Irene, younger by a year, in several London theatre productions, in which they made quite a name for themselves.
Lilian, Lily or Peggy, as she was known to her family as a result of her childhood nickname of ‘Piggy’, was my aunt, my father’s elder sister by 10 years. I remember her as a tall, immaculately elegant icy blonde who used to send me elaborate gift tins of sweets from Fortnum & Mason for every birthday and Christmas, but who was very much of the inclination that ‘children should be seen but not heard’. She was also my second cousin’s grandmother.
My cousin (strictly speaking second cousin once removed), like her grandmother before her, is an absolute beauty. In fact, she looks almost identical to a young Geraldine Chaplin in Dr. Zhivago, the iconic film with Omar Sharif in the title role, released in 1965, long before my cousin was born. More importantly, she is interesting, charismatic, multilingual and highly academic, currently holding a post as Senior Lecturer in International Relations and International Development (International Relations) at Sussex University. For more than a decade she has also been very active in the field of International Human Rights, with a particular focus on Latin America. In other words, she is completely awesome and our whole family is immensely proud of her.
Despite the fact that she is a good 15 years younger than I, we’re probably very much better friends than my father and Lilian were, and very much on the same wavelength; her knowledge and considerable analytical skills make for many riveting conversations. The Lovely Husband and I are also extremely fond of her now eight year old daughter, Lilian’s great granddaughter, who unsurprisingly, is a bouncy, bright and precocious little girl, as enjoyable company as her mother. From time to time the two of them make their way up to London from Brighton and then we have seriously good times together.
On one of their recent visits, on a Sunday, we took them to the Treehouse, a gastro pub just metres from our house in Barnes, in an area called Little Chelsea. It’s a rustic, shabby chic place, more restaurant than pub, but casual and relaxed, with a great little sun trap garden. In Lilian Fendig’s day, and even earlier, it already existed in the same spot as an ale house named The Edinburgh Castle, where, back then, the railway workers, who lived in the adjoining tiny Victorian terraced cottages, would have gone for a refreshing bevvy. The railway line close by was opened in 1846 to transport goods from the Westfields market gardens into London. Long since, these gardens have disappeared, and from the early 1980s onwards the area became increasingly more gentrified, the cottages renovated and painted in pastel colours. To keep pace with the new residents, the pub was taken over, refurbished and became the Treehouse. Gone were the working men in their overalls to be replaced by the younger, more trendy and discerning locals.
As luck would have it, it was a sunny and warm summer’s day, so we took full advantage of the garden, sitting at two chunky, uneven wooden tables partially shaded by giant bamboo plants.
The menu is shortish but offers dishes for all tastes and palates and there’s even a children’s menu, perfect for us on this occasion.
While we were considering what to eat, we got started with some hummus and flat bread to keep the stomach growls at bay. The Lovely Husband and I couldn’t make up our minds which of the delicious sounding salads we should choose, so we picked one each, a Smoked Chicken Breast, Avocado, Mango and Toasted Almond Salad and a Pan Fried Halloumi, Watermelon, Papaya and Crushed Hazelnut Salad, and shared both equally. My cousin fancied a Chicken Sunday Roast but wasn’t hungry enough for a full sized portion, so very amenably, the staff let her have the children’s portion. Our youngest guest had no doubts whatsoever; she went for the Kids’ Burger, Fries and Peas, sharing a little of her mother’s big, puffy Yorkshire pud to help it all go down even better.
The salads, it must be said, were incredible with their very tasty combo of juicy fruit and savoury, melty halloumi and succulent slices of smoked chicken breast respectively, the mixture of leaves both delicate and crisp, the almonds and crushed hazelnuts giving them some extra crunch and the dressing superb, light but full of flavour. The burger, chips and peas with a little pot of ketchup on the side disappeared in no time at all, and the mini chicken roast with its hearty gravy was also clearly fully appreciated.
Sunday Lunch isn’t Sunday Lunch without a yummy dessert. The pudding menu again was full of temptations. We settled on a Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart which was heavy, chocolatey and rich, a Sticky Toffee Pudding which, conversely, was light and not too sweet and an Orange and Treacle Tart with a perfect mild zing and a good crisp base. All came with vanilla ice cream, of which our youngest luncher got an extra portion due to her with the Children’s menu.
We paid £99.23 for a shared portion of hummus, four lunches, of which two from the Children’s menu, soft drinks, two glasses of wine, one bottle of beer, a coffee and service charge. At just under £25 per head, that’s fairly reasonable for four satisfied stomachs and four smiling faces.
In fact, we enjoyed our food so much, that three evenings later, the Lovely Husband and I popped in again. This time we ordered a ‘Small Bites’ portion of Deep Fried Calamari with a fabulous Aioli which was so good that some bad mannered finger scooping took place, the same chicken salad as before and, for the Lovely Husband from the daily menu, a thin, juicy, wonderfully rare Bavette Steak with Garlic Beans, Roasted Tomato, Peppercorn Sauce and Chips. Once again, we ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding to finish off our meal. All of it delicious and, once more, an unadulterated success.
The Treehouse is a great place for couples, groups of friends and families, the menu is well thought out, the food is plentiful and very enjoyable, the ambience relaxed, the service attentive and friendly and the prices acceptable for the quality of food and environment. What’s not to like?
What I wore
All Saints denim goth hobble skirt, blue and white striped LK Bennett scooped neck fitted t-shirt, red patent Prada bow belt, red, white and blue patent Dolce & Gabbana sandals, red Kurt Geiger bag.
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