Published 9 January 1994 Style Magazine 28th article
Problems with the hotel staff are happily forgotten after a spot of island hopping and a delicious kingfish. Sophia Loren dishes it out, while Michael Winner, James Coburn and Lynsey de Paul are quite content to be at the receiving end
The hotel staff at the Sandy Lane Hotel, Barbados, went on strike. The manager claimed a union official tried to open his car door and belt him; the union official said the hotel manager drove at him as he was peacefully picketing. All this was too exciting for me, so I took a private plane to St Lucia, then a helicopter to the Jalousie Plantation resort and arrived in time for lunch. It was much fresher and tastier than the Sandy Lane offering. A man cooking fish and meat on a barbecue grill gave Sparkle some kingfish grilled with garlic and onions and she declared it the best ever. The vegetables mostly grown on the premises were firm and tasty, unlike at Sandy Lane where they resemble world war two tinned food.
The Jalousie Plantation is not as grand or well-run as Sandy Lane, but it is far better in the food stakes, still substantially luxurious, and about a quarter of the price depending, of course, on how and through whom you book. A Scots couple watching the sun go down over the palm-fringed beach with the vast Pitons towering on either side, had paid only £3,000 for seven days, including air fare. This, for everything included at Jalousie, all meals, sports, drinks and tennis! My two return Concorde air fares to Barbados were £8,800 on their own!
Lord Glenconner (aka Colin Tennant ) is no longer an official part of Jalousie, which he made famous, and is now opening his own restaurant and fun area on adjacent land. He has put up some lovely old St Lucian houses and promises a "jerk pit". "Jerk" is the latest Jamaican craze, a sort of fierce barbecuing with pig, chicken or any meat, spicily seasoned with hot pepper, scallion, onion, pimento, ginger, black pepper, salt, paprika and allspice, pounded in a mortar. His Lordship will also be serving "Toasted banana sandwich with a slice of Mars Bar" and a "Chocolate banana popsicle". My old friend Glenconner is in a state of high excitement about his new culinary enterprise, including a rum shop and souvenir place; "BANG between the Pitons" is its name. Mustique it isn't! But jolly it is!
In the meantime, more staid restaurateurs in St Lucia are trembling and closing down. So many hotels offer "all-in" deals, guests are simply not going out to pay more. My favourite Caribbean restaurant, Rain, with its green and white fretwork and a terrace overlooking Castries Cathedral Square, is selling off its crockery and cutlery. Its owner, the American, Al Haman, helped us foodwise when I filmed in St Lucia with Sophia Loren. Then we stayed at La Toc, an exclusive hotel, a gem in the Cunard stable. Now La Toc is called Sandals, and offers a vast food and drink buffet at knockdown prices. I ate their lunch by the sea and a fake waterfall not historic, but holiday-makers were loving it. Sophia would not have approved.
She didn't think much of our location catering, either. When we put on salads of fruit and cottage cheese for our LA actors, Sophia sniffed. "Is this dessert?" she asked. "I will make you spaghetti, Michael," she said before I could answer.
Thus I had my best ever Caribbean lunch. After days of flying in ingredients from all over, La Loren personally cooked and served her own special spaghetti and sauce. Absolutely memorable. I wonder if Sandy Lane could persuade her to make a culinary comeback?
Is Michael Winner right about Sandy Lane Hotel? According to its management, he has stayed there at least nine times, so he has clearly done his research. For an opportunity to try the premier hotel in Barbados yourself, turn to our quiz on page 32.
The other night I had dinner at Chez Nico at Ninety, with important clients from America and this country. We were looking forward to a splendid evening and were, sadly, very disappointed. The service was incredibly and painfully slow one waiter managed to spill two glasses of champagne over one of my guests. Although a great show was made of cleaning up, no apology was made to me or my guest and certainly no offer was made for the dry-cleaning of her suit. When we arrived, our welcome was very offhand and our coats were taken with bad grace. We were put in a booth, which was too small for seven people to sit comfortably and for waiters to pass behind. When each course was served, two guests on one course, and four on the other, were given the wrong plate which then had to be rectified. The food was slow and did not arrive with the wine. It was also cold. The food was extremely expensive for what appeared on the plate. The vegetables were appalling. One of my guests was challenged in a most aggressive way by the waiter on her choice from the menu she was advised that it was "ridiculous". One guest asked for "regular coffee", but was told in a very dismissive way that only espresso was served. There is no excuse for this attitude or for not having filter coffee. On our departure nobody was helped into their coats and after £100 per head, we were left to find our own way out. In 15 years of entertaining clients, I have never had such a disappointing meal, nor met with such arrogance. I could not embarrass my guests further by complaining at the time, but if I had been there alone, I would not have paid the bill.
Sheila Simison, London EC3
Despite my postcode, I quite agree with the sentiments of Robert Cockroft, restaurant critic, Yorkshire Post (December 19). Having dined at some of the so-called best restaurants London has to offer, my two all-time favourites still remain the Black Bull at Moulton and the Crab & Lobster at Asenby, both in north Yorkshire. They cannot be rivalled for quality of food, atmosphere and service, with a bill which doesn't reduce you to tears.
Kate Posener, London NW3