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It's all too noisy apart from the odd welcome Bang

Published 2 May 2004
News Review
564th article

Hats oft: Michael Winner and Lord Glenconner, in the back row, at Bang's Easter bonnet parade (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

The best beach ever is at the Jalousie Hilton in St Lucia. It is breathtaking. It's a bay, set off on either side by the Pitons, two large hills - or maybe small mountains - partly covered in foliage, which tower up framing the white sand and the gentle Caribbean sea.

Look back from the beach and you see a rising, lush landscape of palm trees, bougainvillea, tropical almonds, ficus and a red tree called flamboyant. The plantation house hotel is largely hidden. It's as if you've arrived at an 18th-century pirate cove.

Unusually, I returned to the Caribbean for Easter. Jalousie was built by Iranian Prince Mahvi on what was rainforest and opened in 1991. Lord Glenconner, aka Colin Tennant, was a junior partner in the enterprise. Sadly he and Mahvi fell out and Colin retreated to his own adjacent land.

The hotel shut down, presumably not doing too well, until Hilton and the St Lucia government rescued it in 1997. It's not expensive and great value.

I strongly recommend the Jalousie Hilton. even though the food is moderate to say the most. At their Pier restaurant I faced the worst plateful I've ever encountered.

The frankfurter sausages had been sitting in the tureen so long they were like lead, so was the beef stew, so was the rice. I got by on lunches of superb Caesar salads, moderate steaks and very good ice-cream.

The hotel manager, a likeable but odd man named Rui Domingues, has never managed to be present for the duration of my many visits. Even at Christmas and new year - the hotel's busiest period - he'd vanish. This time he failed to say goodbye and left a day before I did.

To witness supreme professionalism go to Bang, Lord Glenconner's marvellous restaurant next to the hotel. It's the showpiece of Colin's spectacular land, which is now being sold off for grand villas.

Colin's one, almost complete, has imported interiors of maharajahs and Indian princes' palaces. The very nice concert pianist and brilliant conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy built a Scandinavian mansion - his wife is from Iceland - also facing the sea.

Colin served us most excellent river crayfish, christophene gratinee, grilled coconut slices and pawpaw grown in his orchard from seeds imported from India. In his flowing white robes and white hat Colin conscientiously greets every visitor to his enclave with charm and style. He has never deserted me like next-door Rui.

I even compered his Easter bonnet parade! Geraldine was one of the judges. Then I rented a little yellow propeller plane from SVG. one of my favourite airlines, for the 40-minute flight to Barbados.

I was distressed to learn, contrary to what I was told, that Dermot Desmond, my hotel hero and chief owner of the Sandy Lane, was not the Irish billionaire who bought London's Savoy group of hotels. I even wrote and congratulated him! Dermot replied, "Sandy Lane is more than enough for me."

His hotel has elevated from great to stratospheric. The Bajan staff, always charming, are now as efficient as any in Europe. Under general manager Colm Hannon’s skilful leadership the food, even since Christmas, has become historic.

Executive chef Richard Ekkebus is running a more refined, defined and varied operation. His pastry chef, Jean-Luc Vila, makes croissants and cakes as brilliantly as you could find in Paris, and chef Max Sciuto offered a truly memorable shepherd's pie. His pizzas are also unsurpassed.

There is, sadly, no gain without pain. The pain being Jan Tibaldi the resident manager, someone whose operational style I have always found bizarre. This time he excelled himself.

I was sitting quietly on the beach, enjoying the sound of the waves and the birds, when suddenly I was blasted by loud rock-reggae complete with pulsating, electronic, computerised rhythm section. A rampant rave horror. This was coming from a ghetto blaster newly installed by Mr Tibaldi in the nearby beach bar. At lunch the same noise pollution assaulted me.

At dinner, when they normally have gentle piped music, there was now loud rock screaming out from the buffet speakers. "Jan Tibaldi's CD", I was told. I made my feelings known.

The ethos of Sandy Lane is personified in its excellent video on their in-house TV. Relaxing, calm, delightful. To appreciate Mr Tibaldi's music you have to be on ecstasy or coke. I am. But it has the word Cola after it.

The din was diminished in stages to become bearable. I'll happily provide Mr Tibaldi with references for Sandals, an all-in hotel group that specialises in loud music, or the Jolly Roger cruise ship, which assails the Sandy Lane beach with noise, or an amusement arcade. My generosity knows no bounds.

Winner's letters

I love to hate Mr Winner. He stands for everything I despise: vanity, snobbishness, name-dropping, machismo. However, I never miss Winner's Dinners. He makes me feel superior all Sunday.
Lida Winiewicz-Lefevre, Cork

Might I suggest a solution to last week's revelation of the Wolseley having their butter dishes stolen. My girlfriend admired the salt and pepper pots, shaped like two birds, in an Amsterdam restaurant. I slipped them into my pocket. When I came to settle the bill the salt pepper pots were included at a price rather on the high side! I paid without a murmur.
Will Holland, London

I once "lifted" a small porcelain ashtray carrying the hotel name. On examining the trophy we were amused to read on the underside, "honestly stolen from Huka Lodge, New Zealand". Such Inexpensive advertising may induce your friends at the Wolseley to reintroduce butter dishes.
David Bradbury, Rochdale I can beat last week's story about milk in the teapot. In Andalusia I requested "te con leche" of the teenage daughter of a small family restaurant. She spoke no English and seemed perplexed by an order that substituted normal lemon for milk. She eventually brought a pot of lukewarm goat's milk in which floated a tea bag. Not wanting to embarrass her I drank it. I can still taste it to this day.
Colin Drury, Powys

I phoned the Waterside Inn, Bray, two months ahead to book a table by the window. I was told it was not possible to guarantee this regardless of how far ahead I made the reservation. I asked why table allocation couldn't be on a first-come first-served basis. The bizarre reply was, "If Margaret Thatcher were to come we couldn't possibly sit her on a banquette near the door." Have the owners lost their sense of proportion?
Elizabeth Feldman, Hertfordshire

I was interested to see Mr Winner's instincts for good food and surroundings led him to the peaceful and remote Kylesku hotel, Scotland (Winner's Dinners, last week). Being ordinary mortals we couldn't afford to lunch at Skibo Castle. If Mr Winner goes again I'd be happy to pay for his lunch at Kylesku if he'd pay for mine at Skibo.
Lynn Wildgoose, Cheshire

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