Published 26 February 2006 News Review 658th article
Winner with May and Anton Creasy and, rear, Lord Glenconner at Bang (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)
There are 308 days left before the most difficult night of the year: New Year's Eve. I'm trembling already.
What right has the calendar to instruct me to be particularly jolly that evening? Why should I have to watch normally sane people put on tatty paper hats, blow whistles and generally behave like morons? Why should I stay up until midnight being force-fed deafening music when I want to go to bed?
Two years ago I dined with the John Cleese and Chris Rea families at Sandy Lane, Barbados. We'd finished by 10 o'clock. Cleese and I wandered to the furthest, quietest, point of the low wall that separates the beach from the gardens and chatted for a couple of hours. On the 12th stroke of 12 we both went to bed.
Last year wasn't so easy. Cleese was trying out his one-man show in New Zealand.
Chris Rea, frightened by gawping tourists allowed to roam free, went to Mauritius.
On returning he said it was too long a journey and he wouldn't go again. I was left with two kind offers - one to join wit and retail billionaire Philip Green.
Another to join rich (but nowhere near Mr Green rich) Lucian Grainge, head of Universal Music in Europe. Both splendid people.
But I didn't want to be odd one out at a family table. So I hopped it to next-door St Lucia and probably my favourite restaurant in the world, Bang. This has recently been taken over by Anton and May Creasy. May is the daughter of Lord Glenconner (aka Colin Tennant) and Anton is Anton. They had a massively posh wedding last year at Holkham Hall, Norfolk. I sat with Colin, Lady Raine Spencer and Lord Lichfield.
Following the nuptials May and Anton were either banished or went voluntarily (I never got full details) to one of the most beautiful spots in the world, on the Caribbean Sea by the Pitons. There, May's dad, Lord G, has a small restaurant that's always been super-historic and magical. Colin moved beautifully hand carved houses from nearby villages to form a little enclave, which has attracted diners such as Steven Spielberg, Nicolas Cage, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and our very own lord chancellor, Lord Falconer.
I fled there for New Year's Eve. At breakfast Colin said: "We have only three people booked for dinner tonight." "Suits me," I replied. Anton cooks. May does the office work. "You must both show yourselves," I advised them, as if I knew anything about anything, "you're charming, nice-looking people. Get out and greet the guests." Actually some 20 people turned up for New Year's Eve, including, to add intellect, a columnist from The Times.
The food was beyond-belief excellent. We started with slices of grilled coconut. Then beignets of tri-tri - little, just-hatched fishes from the mouth of the river - followed by crayfish caught that morning in a stream that runs behind my suite at the adjacent Jalousie Plantation hotel. With them was boiled green pawpaw and a christophene gratinee.
Anton also prepared spinach puree with nutmeg. I normally hate spinach but this was incredible. Then there were very fat and tasty runner beans. I can't stand vegetables but I went back for more and more of these. They tasted like veggies did during the second world war. Natural. Full of flavour, not chemicals. Anton bought them a few hours earlier in the local market in Soufriere. He wants to attend an English cooking school. One that isn't too fancy. If you know such a place, please tell me and I'll pass it on to him.
My dessert was superb, local Ferrands ice cream with a tangerine jelly with tangerine slices in it. I also tried a coconut cream pie with a chocolate base and pastry. They pick up the coconuts each day from their own trees.
Lord Glenconner, in flowing, white Indian robes and a wide-brimmed white hat, rose to greet some diners. An American with open-toed sandals, asked: "What's your name?" "Colin," replied Lord Glenconner. "Nice to meet you," said the American, "I'm Randy."
Dinner was over by 9.30pm. No crackers, no whistles, no paper hats, no drunks.
Just tranquil and beautiful by the sea.
I said to Geraldine: "I'm going to bed." She asked: "What about the hotel fireworks?" I said: "When they start, wake me. I'll join you on the terrace to watch them."
I vaguely heard a few bangs. No one disturbed me. So I assumed Geraldine was asleep. In the morning she said: "I had to see the new year in on my own." "I told you to wake me," I responded. "You were snoring. I didn't dare," she said. Am I that formidable? Or just a miserable spoilsport?
As the amorous side of your life goes up and down, you forage in the laundry basket of love, reselecting old flames instead of dusting yourself down and seeking new conquests. We'll soon see you queueing outside the palais on Greedy Girl nights.
Barry Kane, Nottingham
As I tucked into my M&S cottage pie with cheesy topping and HP Sauce and a can of Stella Artois (cost £6.18) I was comforted that the Capital hotel (Winner's Dinners, last week) had only marked up your half bottle of Petrus by £280.25. What a relief to know you weren't being ripped off.
Peter Weston, London
Oh dear, after saving up all his Luncheon Vouchers obviously the Petrus 1989 had a disastrous effect on Michael's metabolism. Knobbly knees buckling under the octane effect, two sturdy staff members were pictured propping him up. No sign of Paola. Bet she'd beaten a hasty retreat.
John Whittington, Hertfordshire
Last week you said you were dining in sight of your doctor's surgery. A subconscious revelation from one of the great advocates of hedonism, or a sensible precaution when ordering a half bottle of wine for £731.25? The words "stable door" and "bolted" spring to mind!
Jacqueline Grace, Lincolnshire
I have great sympathy for your quirky dress code. The reason you refuse to wear a necktie is because you're a dribbler. You belong to the bib and tucker brigade because food tends to trickle down your cleavage whenever you're at the trough. But go on, Michael, face the flak. Loosen your corset as well.
John Fisher, Leeds
We were surprised by such a personal and unpleasant attack on Ross Stevenson (Winner's Dinners, February 12). We found Ross to be the most attentive and helpful manager of what we and many others consider to be one of the best hotels in Barbados, Cobblers Cove. He's one of the reasons we'll return next year.
Judy and Richard Luddington, London
In your photo on February 12 you wore a jacket the size of a tent and mentioned the restaurant manager at Brown's had kept two places for you. We all got the joke.
Chris Blockley, Bristol