Published 17 March 2002 Style Magazine 453rd article
From left, Rui Domingues and Jeremy Mutton with Michael Winner in St Lucia (Georgina Hristova)
I was eating breakfast at the Jalousie Hilton, St Lucia, when a lady came over and said: "I'm only here because of you, Mr Winner. It's such a thrill to see you." This was particularly nice of her because, at the time, there was no water and no electricity. I hadn't even been able to toast my bagel in the restaurant. Water was unavailable because, when it rains heavily, silt from the river clogs up the hotel supply. As my suite is in buildings adjacent to the main hotel, I was, strangely, saved both these inconveniences. But I hadn't been spared the torrential rain, which cascaded down the day before. It was quite marvellous. We sat on the sands in tropical heat, under enormous straw umbrellas, riveted by the violent weather. Only lunch intruded on the spectacle. We returned to observe massive waves of rain being blown left to right, and then right to left. We saw the great Piton mountains, one each side of the staggeringly beautiful beach, turn from light to dark as they became waterlogged. Clouds rolled off the top of them.
My open jeep was flooded. When the deluge stopped, I asked Jeremy Mutton, the food and beverage manager who seems to do everything, to have it dried out and the roof put up. When I came to drive to the hotel's Pier Restaurant for dinner, a bit of useless material flopped from struts over the driver's seats. The car was soaking because it had rained again. I drove to the Pier, getting my clothes completely wet from the seating. I went straight to the phone behind the bar and gave Mr Mutton my very clear opinion of his services, and how ridiculous it is to rent a car with no roof in a land of violent rainstorms. When I turned from facing the wall, I saw the local St Lucian restaurant staff grinning from ear to ear. Eight white guests sat at the bar with their mouths open. They'd never heard such a diatribe. "I do apologise for my little cabaret," I said. They all burst into applause. "We loved it," they exclaimed. "It showed how we should deal with people who don't do things properly."
Later, when I was seated, an American came over. "That was a real education," he said. "I do thank you for that." This was the only time I've been applauded for telling someone off.
The food that night was a disgrace. There was a dreadful caesar salad, which had overgarlicky chicken in it and croutons the size of a loaf. There was a sirloin steak of dubious quality, with some gooey sauce and very tired vegetables. An overamplified band, playing as if for a 1970s college dance, announced each number endlessly, before deafening you. I like Jeremy Mutton, so I gave him my view about that quietly the next day. As a consequence, he laid on a Caribbean buffet for me, which was superb: far better than the so-called Caribbean buffet at Sandy Lane, which cost five times the price.
The salad included mixed vegetables, potatoes with cheese and saffron rice. There was a vegetable lasagne, lamb stew and curry, Thai chicken breast in mushroom sauce, Thai seafood curry, mai-mai or dolphin, an excellent pumpkin soup with ginger and hot pepper, and a green pepper and shallot sauce to go with the rib-eye steak. Also, a very good bakewell tart. So Jeremy thoroughly redeemed himself. His American boss, the jovial hotel manager Rui Domingues, even showed up for a few days.
I strongly recommend the Jalousie Hilton. It's not expensive. There's the most beautiful beach in the world, and the nearby town of Soufriere and its dramatic surrounding countryside are almost untouched. I'm happy Lord Glenconner is now selling plots on his rainforest land adjacent to Jalousie, though I noted with horror houses being constructed on what had been virgin territory.
Colin (Lord Glenconner) himself, in his Bang Between the Pitons complex of decorative little wooden houses, gave us wonderful fried baby tri tri fish. Small and see-through, they came from the mouth of the nearby river. They were one of the greatest tastes ever.
Get to this part of St Lucia before it goes. There are ghastly plans to put a marina and sea-view apartments in Soufriere, which currently resembles an 18th-century pirate town. I've seen most of St Lucia become overbuilt and horrid since I filmed there in 1978 with Sophia Loren. You can book the Jalousie Hilton, a lovely plantation house with scattered bungalows, through Classic Connections or Elegant Resorts, both in Chester. Why Chester should be the Caribbean booking centre for the UK mystifies me. But then, so do a lot of other things.
Some of your correspondents have been lambasting Michael Winner by saying, "A fool and his money are soon parted." I believe anyone who regularly reads about his experiences would realise that the phrase "A fool and his money are soon partying" would be more apt. Keep on rockin', Mike.
Chris Jagger, Munich
In his description of the clothes he wore to the Connaught (March 3), Michael Winner woefully omitted to describe the pedigree of his underwear. Can he please take more care to give us a complete rundown of his vestments in future? Some of us turn to his column solely to discover over what garment dear Michael spilt his duck and cauliflower bisque.
Paul Walter, Newbury, Berks
Congratulations to the Connaught (March 3) for making Michael Winner wear a tie. Old men should not appear open-necked, except on the beach or the sports field.
Peter Brown, Ramsbury, Wilts
Michael Winner's column on Villa Nova (February 17) contained numerous inaccuracies. He states that: "... it is hard to believe a hotel on a Caribbean island can be successful when it's half an hour from the sea". Villa Nova is, in fact, a mere five minutes from Barbados's two most scenic beaches. "... there are no beach facilities". At the time of Mr Winner's visit, Villa Nova was entertaining guests at beach-club facilities on both the east and west coasts. It takes 40 minutes to get to Villa Nova from Sandy Lane... Once, I'd have passed cane fields and little hut villages: now, there were endless housing estates, golf courses and Chefette restaurants." He must have taken a particularly circuitous route. In truth, the journey takes 20 minutes, since it is only seven miles away, on quiet country roads. The route passes no housing estates, and although it does pass the Chefette fast-food restaurant and a golf course, these are on Sandy Lane's doorstep, not ours. Georgina had seafood spaghetti and slow-baked tomatoes ... She said: 'This is sun-dried tomato, not slow-baked.'" The suggestion, on the say-so of Mr Winner's companion, is that Villa Nova's executive chef sought to mislead diners. Chef Garry Knowles is innocent of her charge: slow-baked tomatoes are a regular and popular menu item. And what, in any case, are Ms Hristova's culinary credentials for making such judgments?
Lynne Pemberton, Villa Nova, Barbados
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