Published 28 April 2002 Style Magazine 459th article
Branching out: Luna Antrobus, Michael Winner and Marco Pavone at Daphne's in Barbados (Georgina Hristova)
I wasn't pleased to see Mark Hix, the executive chef of The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey, walking up to me in Barbados wearing shorts. He's a very nice person, but I thought: "Who's looking after the store?" Mark had gone Caribbean to supervise the opening of Daphne's in Barbados. Since the Belgo Group bought Daphne's as Well as The Ivy trilogy, they reasonably want to maximise their profits by sending the best staff hither and thither to goose things up. Thus, Jesus Adorno, the superb restaurant manager of Le Caprice, splits his time with the London Daphne's to try and restore it to the world of buzz. Mr Hix was organising the Daphne's kitchen in Barbados. I walk past the place on my daily jaunts from Sandy Lane to a breakwater about half a mile away. It's part of the Tamarind Cove Hotel, where Alan Rickman once rose from his sunbed to greet me.
The original Daphne's was opened in Chelsea by a casting director, Daphne Rye, in the 1960s. It was a narrow place with booths, featuring amazingly good chocolate souffle. Then it took a dive, until Mogens Tholstrup and his then wife, Paola, got it in 1993. It had a period of being "in" among the Chelsea set and Princess Diana. I even took OJ Simpson there to lunch. Then it sank again into the mire of the ex-chic. Belgo bought it and is doing its best to reinvigorate the place. I haven't been for ages. But I did try the one in Barbados.
I drove my Mini Moke into a large, deserted yard in front of the restaurant. An attendant said: "We have valet parking." I responded: "I've parked in an empty space." The attendant said: "You shouldn't." "I'm leaving the car here. End of story," I replied tartly. That was a poor start.
Daphne's Barbados looks like a Balinese wooden hut made out of Lego. It's not particularly attractive; it's not awful. It hovers in between. The manager, Marco Pavone, was at The Collection in London. He's aided by a very talented young lady named Luna Antrobus. Luna looks terrific. Her mum used to manage La Cage aux Folles for Nick Hudson, one of the great Barbados restaurateurs. Luna helped out there and dated Julian Lennon. She's now one of the most charming and adept restaurant managers I know. Dermot Desmond should snap her up to run his L'Acajou restaurant, the posh one in Sandy Lane. She'd be a substantial asset.
A waiter came over. I said: "Who's going to take the order?" He said: "I am." "Could I see your pad and pencil, please?" I asked.
Georgina had soup; I've no idea what it was. I forgot to put it on my tape. She didn't like it. I tasted it: it was bitter. Most of it was left. "I'm looking forward to the duck," Georgina said, to cheer herself up. I quite liked my pea and gorgonzola risotto.
Georgina added: "I'd like to point out the chicken dish you ordered was the cheapest on the menu, half the price of the other ones." I'm not sure what relevance that had, but I like you to get a flavour of the evening. In fact, my breast of chicken with caponata, rosemary and liver spiedini was rather good. The fried zucchini, in thin strips, was exceptionally tasty. Georgina had duck with local tomatoes and basil on the side. She enjoyed that greatly.
Two things impinged on the meal. A great deal of loud yapping emanated from two young American couples sitting the other side of the aisle to us. They all had piercing, whiny voices. One of them clapped his hands together and laughed hysterically. They spoke with their mouths full. Things got worse when the restaurant added piped music. Noise pollution was rampant. A very good vanilla panna cotta helped a bit.
The chef is Kelly Jackson, who was at the Four Seasons - I had an utterly dreadful experience there. I'll tell you about it next week. Kelly's meal was highly respectable. Not in the some league as The Cliff, which is still the best restaurant in Barbados for food, although low on ambience. I like Carambola, on the cliffs nearby. Also the Lone Star, which has great atmosphere. The Sandy Lane restaurants are far and away the best hotel offerings. At times. they almost reach historic. But they vary.
Another good place is La Terra, owned by a couple of very pleasant New Zealanders, Larry and Michelle Rogers. It's right on the sea and has three large sofas in the middle of the restaurant. Very handy if you get tired waiting, for service and feel like a snooze. I often do.
I was puzzled by Christine Marlow's comments about the food at the Jalousie Hilton (April 14). My husband and I have stayed there on three occasions, and have always found it to be excellent. Incidentally, her alternative venue at the airport is an hour away by car on a very bumpy road - is she suggesting using a helicopter to pop out for her chilli beef?
Jill Few, Norwich
I must take exception to Mr Winner's use of the term "twice nightly" (April 14). He claims it to be an old theatrical saying, referring to a show cut short so that it could be performed twice on the same night. However, millions of listeners to Radio 2's Wake up to Wogan breakfast programme will know that "Twice Nightly" is, in fact, the sobriquet of Richard Whiteley, the veteran presenter of the Channel 4 quiz show Countdown. What it refers to in this case is best left to the imagination. By way of apology, I suggest that Mr Winner invites Twice Nightly to a slap-up lunch. Maybe Terry Wogan could join them. And I'm usually available, too.
P Monty, Sheffield
Mr Winner's experience at La Gousse d'Ail was a carbon copy of our aborted meal at the same restaurant. With two daughters due to be picked up at the end of a local Radiohead gig, I politely asked the staff to hurry along our desserts. As the rain poured down and the girls' mobile phone calls were getting ever more desperate, we finally decided to abandon ship at 11:30pm - only to be berated and charged for our nonexistent, tardy tarts as we left. We had the same forebodings as Mr Winner: local cognoscenti raising their eyebrows at our choice of venue, an interminable wait in the bar without menus, and dishes that said one thing and tasted of another. We shall take more interest in Mr Winner's whinings in the future.
Marc and Bev Wright, Marlow, Bucks
The behaviour of the chef, Jonathan Wright, at La Gousse d'Ail (April 14) seems to me to be totally justified. Fine cooking such as his needs to be enjoyed at an unhurried pace if it is to be fully appreciated - something Mr Winner and his guests obviously failed to understand. If speed was a priority, then why didn't they choose Burger King instead? La Gousse d'Ail is a wonderful place. Winner made it sound like a funny farm.
Oliver Smith, London