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My role as fashion leader

Published 22 September 1996
Style Magazine
168th article



Suits you, sir: Ralf and his muse in Ralf's clothes shop (Vanessa Perry)

Some of you have been kind enough to say in letters and in person how fashionably dressed I am. Not many, of course. The majority refer to me as a schlock, ie a mess! It was around 1967 that I stopped wearing suits and ties, decided not to care what others thought and developed a style that I am dismayed to note is now being worn by others. It consists of classy Bally suede loafers, considerably the worse for wear. No socks. Jeans, which are usually Versace, because they're the only make with a waist large enough. A pretty good shirt, invariably handmade or from Los Angeles or Cannes, worn outside the trousers, the whole Crowned with a loose-fitting lightweight jacket, sleeves rolled up, sometimes in silk, the like of which I have only found in Beverly Hills or the South of France. This brings me to Ralf, who has a men's shop in Juan-les-Pins, definitely one of the best places for men's and women's clothes. It is a small shop in a row of small shops. When you enter, Ralf exhibits his only four words of English. "Rod Stewart," he says, realising you come from that part of the world. I look blank. "Sorry. don't know . . ." "Arnold Kopelson," he continues as if he has produced the trump card. Mr K is a Hollywood producer. "Er, I'm afraid . . ." By now Ralf has taken out clothes that he continues to fire at you until you are in the street. He is a great schmutter salesman. The Jewish equivalent of the Catholic Marisa Anastasio at the hotel Splendido in Portofino. She has naked photos of herself in the changing room. Ralf, mercifully, does not.

On a recent visit, I spent so long fielding the barrage of garments that the shops around were closing for the long French lunch period. Vanessa had seen a dress she was determined to have, so there was no alternative but to stay in the area for our meal and shop yet again. Ralf recommended the hotel Juana in Juan-les-Pins, which has two Michelin stars. Everyone tells me this is terrific. But the setting, a small frontal terrace by quite a busy road, has always frightened me. Ralf then recommended the Bistrot du Port in nearby Golfe-Juan, a delightful, smallish port that I have known well for nearly 50 years. The B du P has an old restaurant on the seafront and a wooden platform area right on the sea opposite. We sat there. The house is shuttered, one up one down, and is one of the many remaining old-time buildings. I had some nice marinated salmon, a rather odd local sausage with a sort of aubergine stew with cheese, Vanessa a first-class grilled loup de mer. It is owned by Colette and Jean-Claude Druffen, a nice, jolly couple always in attendance.

Those who know are aware that a few yards down the coast toward Cannes is one of the Cote d'Azur's most legendary establishments, Tetou. It's in a moderately posh hut on the beach next to an identical hut called Nounou. I've never known anvone go to Nounou, but Tetou is treble-historic. It's been in the same family, who work it brilliantly, since Ernest Cirio opened up in 1920. There is a very complex family tree, most branches apparently rushing between the tables doing their excellent best. There's Pierre-Jacques Marquise, great-grandson of Cirio, nicknamed stubborn, which in French is teru. There's Uncle Philip in the kitchen, Marie-Christine Prins, Paul Morlet, Jacqui Gay (Tetou) and more of them than I could cope with. Tetou serves, unquestionably, the best bouillabaisse in the world. A newish place called Bacon, much posher, opened up near Antibes a few years ago. For a while, it looked like pinching Tetou's crown. But the last time I went there they were arrogant and the bouillabaisse had gone to pot. You know Tetou is "old France" because it is one of the few places that still doesn't take credit cards. Favoured guests, and me, sit right by the sea-windows. The bouillabaisse is a meal in itself. Lobster, langoustine, st pierre fish, rascasse, rouget, daurade, old potatoes boiled in the stock with the fish. "See, no bones," they announce proudly. So much there that at least two-thirds gets left. To follow, the speciality is deep-fried beignets offered with enormous jars of home-made marmalade in cherry, peach, orange, grapefruit, tomato with lemon twist and vanilla sticks, and winter yellow watermelon. Add cream and sugar, and this has to be one of the great desserts of the world. I was glad we'd been delayed. Thus fortified, I drove back to Juan-les-Pins to buy Vanessa some clothes. Believe me, for that you need to be fortified.



Letters

Every time my wife wants to go to an expensive restaurant, I remind her that if Michael Winner never gets good service or indeed good food on his trips to eating establishments, what chance have we? So, we usually end up eating at home. Thank you, Mr Winner. I owe you.
Frank Davidson, Durham

Michael, as a great fan, I am writing to ask whether it would be possible for you to send me a signed photograph of yourself. I have a matching pair of silver picture frames that sit on either side of my marble fireplace. One of these houses a picture of my adopted chimpanzee, Michael. The other, unfortunately, is empty. I feel that only someone of your stature has the necessary gravitas to fill such a gap. PS If you ever get to Leeds, I recommend Bryan's fish and chip shop. If you are at all doubtful as to the calibre of this fine establishment, may I refer you to your friend Lord Hanson who, I understand, regularly visits Bryan's on his way home from Huddersfield Town away matches.
Richard Hutchinson, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

While at Victoria Falls, a friend and I decided to visit the famous Victoria Falls Hotel. We were on an "ecotourism" research trip and staying at the hotel was way beyond our modest budget. Nevertheless, we used the old chestnut of having a drink on the terrace as a means of inspecting the hotel. While walking through the splendid courtyard gardens, we were bombarded by ripe mangoes falling from the ill-placed trees lining the path. My friend picked up the fruit and proceeded to the terrace, where she promptly opened up the first mango and declared it our lunch. Sheepishly, I followed suit and, with mango juice dribbling down my face, waited to be asked to leave. Now here is the mark of a well-managed hotel. Not only did they refrain from demanding our early retirement from the premises, but with our drinks, they brought a finger bowl each and a starched white linen napkin. All was executed in a friendly manner. I am now happy to rank the Victoria Falls Hotel with good old Claridge's.
Dr V M Edwards, Emery Down, Hampshire