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Sun, sea and slander from the mob in paradise

Published 16 February 2003
News Review
501st article

Beach buddies: Winner with Dinah and Takis Lagoudakos (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

Amazingly you can stay in Barbados and pay less than the £63,000 I gave Sandy Lane for my 28-day Christmas visit. If you wish to enjoy almost the same view, to swim in the same bay, pay a fraction of what I paid and be in a nice hotel, I suggest the Almond Beach Club.

If I lie on my padded blue sun-lounger in a key position near the beach bar of Sandy Lane, and in the centre of the sweeping, palm-fringed bay, and look to my right, I see, on the tip of the bay, the Almond Beach Club. It's a five-minute walk past private villas on soft, golden sand.

It was the 50th birthday of my key receptionist and personal hairdresser Mrs Lagoudakos. As Dinah May, she was a well-known Miss Great Britain, a TV game show hostess and an actress in Brookside. She now has a far more fascinating life working in the office with me.

It was also the 25th anniversary of Dinah's marriage to her husband, a charming Greek musician named Takis. On top of that, it was Christmas. My present for all three events was eight nights at the Almond Beach Club early in January.

This has 161 rooms built around three swimming pools and a garden. Some of the rooms look directly on to the sea. No children are allowed, but its sister place, the Almond Beach Village, does allow children. This particular child (me) has never been there.

A couple could go now for two weeks to the Almond Beach Club, including return air fares from London, for £3,195 per person, advises Cathy Prescott, of Seasons in Style on the Wirral. This buys you all meals - as much food and drink as you can devour - as well as the subsidiary delights of fishing, water-skiing, snorkelling and sailing.

Dinah and Takis were ecstatic. "It was out of this world," said Dinah, ruefully looking at menus and other souvenirs of her stay I requested she bring to the office to guide me.

I have personally walked round the hotel, which is owned by a local Bajan, Ralph Taylor. They upgraded Dinah to a small suite. She's just muttered "It was out of this world" again - adding something about two televisions and a 7ft bed. "And we could walk straight out of our room to the sea. That was the best," she rambled on, in case I hadn't got her drift.

I went one lunchtime and inspected thoroughly. They were offering soup, wrapped butter (not my favourite), two urns of - vegetables, one of rice, separate tureens of lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, plus hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecued chicken and freshly cooked marlin. "That was beautiful," Dinah has just informed me. There were many desserts. There's also an a la carte menu in the all-in price.

Rita is in front of me in the line - "John's wife", Dinah explained helpfully. "What are you taking, Rita?" I asked. Then I saw it was bread pudding. Takis, next to me in the queue, kept saying: "It's beautifully clean. They're always cleaning."

"You never saw any litter or any dirt," added Dinah, now peering over my shoulder in the office.

They have another restaurant in the hotel called Enid's, where you have to book. There they celebrate "the culinary heritage of our native Barbados".

I didn't personally eat at the Almond Beach Club because the day I inspected I had a preordained lunch with a major newspaper editor at Sandy Lane. But Dinah is no pushover. Many times she's accompanied me on my London inspections and been extremely caustic about the food we were served.

And if any of you are saying "Well, you're not much of a food writer, Winner, if you don't even eat in the hotel you're writing about", I can only say you are absolutely correct. I never professed to be much of a food writer. I'm an eccentric storyteller. I hope that's enough for you. If not, read something else.

You also see from the Almond Beach Club one of the bizarre sights of Barbados where beaches are open to the public. Tourists ride horses past and onto the Sandy Lane beach. The leading horserider, who presumably rents the horses, doubles as a local revolutionary. He yells as loud as he can: "This is Sandy Lane. They knocked it down and rebuilt it for $800m. They don't care about Barbados. They'll soon pack up and leave."

This is untrue and highly slanderous of Sandy Lane's proud owners, who employ at least 400 local people. But it adds to the fun as we sip our pina coladas, lie back and observe the raving the mob.

Winner's letters

Having followed the "Winner Diet" for some months (pasting his weekly pic in my food diary), I have lost 42lb. I'd like to share my success with the dear man. All he needs to do is take me out for dinner on a regular basis and I'll demonstrate how a diet of caviar, lobster and truffles will also remove excess pounds. And from the wallet too!
Marianne Bartram, Towcester

Winner's Dinners is always worth a glance for a couple of minutes' amusement at his absurd posturings. But why shouldn't there be a Frenchman working in an Indian restaurant (Winner's Dinners, last week)? Are only Indians allowed to work in Indian restaurants? And should French restaurants only be staffed by Frenchmen? (Heaven preserve us.) Where would that leave hundreds of workers from the Antipodes and the former Yugoslavia?
Rehan Kularalne, London

I used to work in restaurants and find the attitude expressed in many of your letters quite disgusting. Waiters get a maximum of £4 an hour for work that is skilled and stressful. The bulk of a waiter's wage is made up by the customer. This will remain so until restaurateurs become less greedy. Large parties will always be charged service. Unthinking, miserly customers will always complain and waiters will always hate you with a smile. If you don't want tp tip waiters for their service don't go out to eat.
Toby Cox, London

During his perpetual, hedonist exploits throughout the world would be most refreshing if Michael would invite Clare Short MP to lunch. She could explain why she allows taxpayers' money to be spent on selective aid to Zimbabwe which fails to be distributed to the starving it opposition areas. Michael might consider forgoing his next £63,000 junket and donate the sum to those who haven't had any food for a week or more. I don't know how the pair of them can sleep at night.
Doug Endersby, Peterborough

I can enlighten Stanley Glicksman (Winner's Letters, last week) about where Michael Winner hung out in his youth. He was frequently to be seen at the Flamingo Cafe, one of the first coffee houses in Kensington High Street, usually with a girl on either arm.
Martin Spiro, Ongar, Essex

Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST or e-mail michael.winner@sunday-times.co.uk