Published 20 February 2000 Style Magazine 345th article
Beach boys: back, Steve Cox and Rory Rodger; front, Christian Roberts, Michael Winner and Andy Whiffen (Miss Lid the Third)
It was called the Lone Star Garage and Motel when it opened a couple of years ago as a boutique hotel on Barbados's St James's coast. It was quite awful. I had two of the worst, most tediously served meals I've ever eaten and had to put up with a ghastly charity-night speech from a third-rate comedian who has a small flat next door. So it was with some nervousness, even though it was recommended by that excellent photographer Terry O'Neill, that I booked myself two rooms. I was so nervous that I covered myself with a four-room, three-bathroom house at the nearby Royal Pavilion. I became even more neurotic when an English lord inspected it and said that an open sewer ran through the beach and the food was indifferent.
The place is now called the Lone Star Hotel and Restaurant because the word "motel" put people off. It is quite exceptional. I mean that nicely. There are only four rooms. I was on the raised ground floor in two adjoining rooms with large balconies facing the Caribbean Sea. It was hotel accommodation of extreme elegance. Modern, but tastefully designed by one of the hotel's owners, Steve Cox. He also has restaurants in Richmond, Surrey. The beach Is uncomfortably small, but no sewer runs through it: it's a storm drain from the coast road.
The Lone Star Restaurant, also beautifully designed, is right on the sea, and has improved greatly since its opening. I was in Barbados for six dinners and six lunches. I ate all of them, bar two dinners, at the Lone Star. It's also the most "muzzy" place on the island. Everyone seems to pass through: from Jodie Kidd to Cilla Black (admittedly with me); from Hebert Sangster to Frankie Dettori. Even Vinnie Jones booked a table for 10, but I exited before they arrived. I had heard they could be noisy.
The Lone Star's excellent chef, Andy Whiffen, comes from Poole in Dorset. He produced some memorable fresh lobsters, some superb crab cakes, a very good white- and dark-chocolate mousse, nice chicken tikka and one of the worst, most overdone plates of spaghetti ever. The service is very good. When I noted there were no cotton buds or slippers in the rooms, they were there the next day. So it would be churlish of me to mention that one of the bedside tables had only been half-dusted, the dirty half being so thick I doubt it had been touched since the place was built.
They should also have a weighing machine in the bathroom, even though I wouldn't use it for fear of becoming depressed. They sported piped music in the restaurant, but it was quiet and consisted of 1950s hits. I'm prepared to drop all objections to piped music if it's Dean Martin singing Volare, or any other tune for that matter.
Christian Roberts, a former actor, is a co-owner, and Rory Rodger the general manager. They are both immensely charming. You even get 125g of beluga caviare as a freebie at your first meal. So it seems churlish (yet again) to mention one of the most diabolically inept moments I've ever suffered in a restaurant. I had chosen, with Rory, a table "by the rail", as the Americans say. I told him if I wasn't coming I'd be sure to phone. One night I particularly told him I'd be there with very dear friends from England. I entered the restaurant and, as my guests hadn't arrived, I sat down with Frankie Dettori and his manager. When my friends showed up, they joined us for a moment. Then - a sight I shall never forget - Rory was leading a party of four to my table. They set down. I shot up. "What on earth are you doing, Rory?" I demanded. "You've given away my table."
"We had a phone call from the Royal Pavilion cancelling for you," he said.
"Nonsense,” I replied. "You can see I'm here. Clear my table at once."
Rory, nervously, got the people off. Not unnaturally, they made a derogatory comment about me as they passed by. I felt guilty, even though I was totally innocent.
We later found the Royal Pavilion had cancelled a table for Mr and Mrs Ogden. Only in Barbados does that sound like "Winner".
As the meal progressed I called Rory over. "Go to those four people," I said. "Apologise again. Make sure they know it's your fault and tell them the meal is on me." On the way out, the displaced, freebie group stopped to thank me. They even invited me to a cocktail party a couple of days later. Rory, you will be glad to hear, is forgiven. Because I am so incredibly kind. But you knew that already.
Michael Winner's comment that they knocked down the wrong hotel in Barbados was spot-on (Style, February 6). The Royal Pavilion has always reminded me of a piece of microwaved beef: pink on the outside and overdone on the inside.
Edna Weiss, London
I read Michael Winner's column regularly, and admire the way in which he shows up incompetence in the food industry. If only he could turn his attention to the NHS, of which, as a haemodialysis patient at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, I am a regular customer. The food would doubtless horrify him - but his take-no-prisoners approach would teach managers and administrators lessons that they badly need to learn.
Guy Erwood, Fleet Hargate, Lincs
Ofar Quarson's letter (Style, January 30) concerning customers' complaints about "dirty" cutlery in restaurants reminded me of how a steward treated similarly pompous passengers when I was an air hostess many years ago. On receiving a complaint about the quality of the wine, the steward would apologise, take the wine into the pantry, transfer it to another bottle and serve it again. Invariably, the passenger was delighted with the "superior vintage".
Pam Hendicott, Cowbridge, Glamorgan
A friend and I recently returned from the River Room at the Savoy, having partially eaten the most unspeakable meal imaginable. Michael Winner sprang instantly to mind. I am an avid fan of his, and have loved his comments in the past. Has he ever experienced the delights, or otherwise, of the Savoy?
Mrs Ceri Brooks, Welwyn Garden City
I understand that hunting pink is to be banished from the hunting field. But this proscription does not go nearly far enough. There should also be swingeing penalties for anyone who sports a necktie. I am sure that if Michael Winner were to be appointed minister for dress codes, measures against these outrages would be enforced with the necessary vigour.
Graham Ramsay, Edinburgh
Just a quick note to say that I enjoy nothing more than reading Michael Winner's column while doing my ablutions on a Sunday morning.
B Goddard, Birmingham
Send your questions to Style; or e-mail: michael.winner@ sunday-times.co.uk