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An incredible spot - but I'd go before it's finished

Published 5 February 2006
News Review
655th article



Michael next to Eve and Craig Barnard at the Jalousie Plantation (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

The most beautiful beach I've ever seen lies between the towering peaks of the Pitons in St Lucia.

The golden sand was brought by barge from Venezuela. When I first visited in 1977 there was black volcanic grit and you couldn't get near the water without battling through an exquisite natural rain forest, which was meant to have magical powers.

Unesco named the area a World Heritage Site. No buildings were to blight this natural beauty. I filmed nearby with Sophia Loren in 1978. Then in 1982 my friend Lord Glenconner, aka Colin Tennant, bought the lot. He became owner of one of the most exquisite places in the world.

I continued to visit, staying at Ladera, a hotel dramatically perched overlooking the rainforest and the Pitons. One bedroom wall was fully open to the view. My suite featured an interior pool and a waterfall.

In 1988 Colin sold half his rainforest to an Iranian prince who built a hotel, the Jalousie Plantation House. I took John Cleese there for his honeymoon in 1982. I was also with Patsy Kensit on her first honeymoon in Barbados and in Venice with Marco Pierre White on his third. This is a service I perform.

If you're planning nuptials and think I'd improve your special after-ceremony romantic vacation, write in and I'll send you my rate card.

Sadly the Jalousie Plantation House didn't do well and closed with massive debts after three years. It remained deserted until Hilton took over in 1998. They brought the sand from Venezuela. They didn't do well either.

So in February last year they sold it to a very classy local hotelier, Craig Barnard. Craig not only acquired a hotel, he's got a new wife, Eve, nicknamed Baby Blue!

Craig was financed (for the hotel, not the wife) by Roger Myers, a nice man from St John's Wood (that's a rarity!) who now lives in St Lucia. Roger sold out UK restaurants Peppermint Park, Punch Taverns and Cafe Rouge and will spend millions upgrading what is now called Jalousie Plantation. I visited recently. Not much has yet been done.

The rooms, mostly chalets, are being tarted up in clusters. The hotel will remain open until some cricket event finishes in April 2007. Then it will close. Craig, with unimaginable optimism, thinks it will re-open the following Christmas/New Year.

I view all this with some trepidation as the Iranians own masses of land at the back and plan to build many holiday homes. All the owners will have access to the Jalousie beach, making it vastly overcrowded. So I'd go now.

When I was there recently the bay was tranquil. Luxuriant Caribbean foliage dominates the view in all directions -unless you're looking out to sea in which case there's salt water. It's the most incredible spot. There are almond trees, coconut palms, red cedar, gommier, wild silk cotton, glyricidia and hog plum.

The food is average. I had a nice dinner on the terrace with chilled breadfruit vichyssoise, corn soup, chef's salad, coconut and chicken salad and lobster. The ice cream - from a local firm, Ferrands Dairy - is particularly good.

Lunch by the sea was mediocre. The pizza was unspeakable, the strawberry cheesecake cloying. Craig says his two-year plan will transform the place into one of the greatest hotels in the world. The first thing he should do is take the 40-minute flight to Barbados and sample the food at Sandy Lane.

I was very impressed with Craig's general manager, Frits Hannenberg, and his wife, Jenny. They were immensely hospitable. Except Frits had e-mailed me Jenny would meet me at the airport and she didn't.

"Craig stopped her going at the last minute," explained Frits. Naughty Craig! You mustn't undermine your general manager when he's given a guest an undertaking.

As it was Geraldine and I got into the helicopter for the five-minute flight to the hotel whereupon the pilot screamed hysterically at the St Lucia Helicopters rep: "Get them out! Get them out!" When I declined to move he pushed the panic horn.

Red in the face, he yelled he only had enough petrol to go straight back to his base at Castries and couldn't stop off at Jalousie. Since we arrived at exactly the time we said we would, I found this deeply humiliating for poor Geraldine. Not for me. I'm used to anything.

My travel guru, Kathy Prescott at Seasons in Style, Chester, says two people can go now to Jalousie Plantation for £3,570 for two weeks or £2,115 for one week. This includes all food, drink and a Virgin return flight from Gatwick. I recommend it. Those are sums I spend on dinner for four.



Winner's letters

Your bow tie looked suspiciously of the made-up variety. Yuk. Despite this attempted elegant facade you have a long way to go sartorially. But you know that and we know that.
Richard Evans, Somerset

Following your glowing review of Izgara last week I plan to take my girlfriend Jill on Valentine's Day. Please refrain from making a follow-up visit then as it could affect the ambience. Judging by the scores of empty seats pictured behind you and your flunkies I assume your pomposity emptied the place.
James Nursey, Hammersmith

Last week's column was historic. Witty, informative and full of interesting detail. I enjoyed every word of it. The photo was a delight, your clothing immaculate and your modesty made you give your charming companions seats in the front row. I think I'm going mad.
Barry Denton-MacLennan Hertfordshire

So there you are, a reputable film mogul, travelling through north London to make a DVD as Billy Bonker with a nice man called Dicky Pain set in a Winnebago on a remote, "gently bizarre" Finchley farmyard. Michael, have you suddenly become a Liberal Democrat?
Barry Kane, Nottingham

At last! A photo of coiffure and sartorial elegance. Congratulations to Dinah your hairdresser and Alan your make-up man. Mission impossible accomplished.
Clive Wedgery, Dorset

I'm impressed. You arrive in this country on a BA flight a couple of weeks ago in a distressed and dishevelled state and now you've secured the head waiter's job at Izgara. Your uncomfortable expression in last week's photo was due to the fact that your penguin suit didn't fit. I suggest you return it to the previous owner and use your first week's wages on having one made that actually fits your portly frame.
John Lehal, Derby

You seem to do better with British Airways than us. Last year, flying from New York to London, there was no in-flight service. We were given a little picnic box containing a small bottle of water, a muffin and a bite-size KitKat! There was no apology or compensation from BA. Nor has there been any reply to my correspondence!
Agnes Nicholson, Durham.

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