Monte – April 10th

We had decided to have breakfast, continental style, in mum’s room so as to savour the view and the Monagasgues going about their daily drudgery in the principal glittery place on earth. The staff, naturally, were up pre-dawn laying the tables for the seagulls to aim at, (although hotel snipers were well placed on rooftops to stop them before their bombing runs were started). Mum was, as usual, watching them at about 6, laying up for the early risers and people who, I was horrified to find out, actually came here to work! Breakfasters - April 10 Breakfast over, we walked into Casino Square fully intending to hit the tables at 10.30am, but were told by various sources, (not least of which, the Casino itself), that it would not open till 2pm. We decided therefore to visit the Metropole Hotel, (scene of the 1956 honeymoon), first for tea for two, and at first glance thought it had turned into a shopping centre….. P1050958 Fortunately though, (and contrary to this picture, which is un-ashamedly one for the boys), Spandex is good...... the shopping centre was not the hotel itself, and this picture clearly shows that  Spandex does still work (as long it costs at least £800 per leg). The real hotel was hiding next door in an oasis of calm, tranquility, and spandex free , (although to be fair, I didn’t look that hard)

 Now it will come as no surprise that I was not allowed in to the Casino for lack of identification, so was whisked back to the meridien in the fastest Audi they could lay their hands on so as to return before my Martini had gone irritatingly flat. Once back, I joined mother in the Salon Prive and gave the room the once over. A fleeting glance told me that roulette, which was the order of the day, was available on at least four positions, and so, with a case of money and no idea what to do, I assembled my cufflinks and we rolled over to the wheel of fortune. Three quarters of an hour later, and as we confidently predicted, we’d lost the lot. Although mum had won fairly substantially on number seventeen, thirteen had not been present at all, and dad was blamed for having his hand on the magnet. We had enjoyed ourselves though, and Kim was thanked for coming up with idea of funding the jaunt. No pictures of this as the Casino does not allow common devices into it’s hallowed halls, something which the assembled Japanese must have absolutely hated, along with all the other 14 year olds who can barely speak to people without the resource of a phone to help them along with the difficult words, not forgetting the excuse it gives you to run for a fake call and avoid real life altogether. We went to the bar, had a martini and a champagne cocktail, and wandered back through town towards the hotel, where we endured the worst of Monte Carlo cuisine on offer. A plate of grey escalope, and courgette, green beans, and asparagus which had all been boiled. I hope that can be said of the half-wit who put it on the plate as well, but I can’t be certain.

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Monte – April 9.

Well as you may have seen from an earlier post, British Airways managed to break the first plane which we were scheduled to fly on, and so just for a giggle we were told to walk a mile in the other direction to jump on the reserve they had set up. You know, the one with the rubber bands on it for engines. No catering could be transferred as the plane was a different size, and the assembled glitterati almost chocked on their blinis when they realised the fizz would have to be postponed until dropping like an inevitable stone into Monte. And just to cap it all, BA had arranged for a ‘lady’ driver, the first time I’d ever heard of such a thing, which turned out to be handy, because as we all know, lady drivers never ask for directions, saving a decent 20 minutes en route.

Then, and with a large amount of subterfuge and help from the lady at the ‘Heli-Air’ desk, we tricked my mum into thinking she was getting a taxi to the hotel, and walked her to the wrong side of the airport, where I dropped the not insubstantial bombshell that she’d be actually going by helicopter. The long footage of this ‘Beadle-esque’ deceit will take about 30 years to upload, but for now here’s a little look at Monaco via a cheap mobile phone and a very loud helicopter.



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The drive to the Meridien, Monte Carlo.

It’s nice to go to lunch whilst your vehicle is pressing down on some of the most famous miles of motor circuit in the world. Our cab from the heliport took us there along the pit straight and up to Casino Square before, shamefully, hooking a left and missing out the hairpin before the tunnel entrance, which would result in the driver receiving a substantial cut in his tip.

Once at the hotel it was Bollinger then dinner. With SAS cufflinks, (a 21st birthday present which I had never had reason to wear) suited and dolled-up – (dear god I even wore hair product, thanks to my good friends at Frosts, hairdressers in Chelmsford) – we descended to the restaurant and ordered dinner. Mum had langoustines, I, scallops, followed by duck breast, and a bottle of the 76 Latour. Desert was missed, as my surprise birthday cake was rolled to the table by 4 staff, and an entire restaurant singing Happy Birthday, which went down, largely because of the Bollinger,  with a huge smile from the recipient. A very big thank you to the Meridien for pulling that off. It was a brilliant end to the day which had started off with Bucks Fizz and finished with a suitable’bang‘ in the form of a rocket on the top of the cake.

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A five hour lunch (or how the other half lives………..)

One hour lunches are, I believe, the staple diet, if you’ll excuse the pun, of the working class. It simply won’t do to have any less than five, as my ‘Raffle-ite’ friend of high standing, George, would concur. We therefore arrived at the Hotel du Vin in Royal Tunbridge Wells at midday, and told our driver, rather hilariously, that we’d be ready by three pm.

Well, I’m here to tell you that by three pm I wasn’t even merry, let alone had I snipped a Havana in the cigar room, so that pick-up would be put back. Obviously it was a shame none of us thought to tell the driver, but like I said about the working class………………….

We gathered in the private ante-room for fizz and canapes, and whilst Max prepared his card tricks a faintly non-french looking waitress stood demurely at the doors waiting to fill glasses and float, un-observed by the guests, judging who was going to be the trouble in this little lot……

  • Pre-lunch drinks
  • `
  • The private dining room
  • IMAG0131
  • The reveal - The private room at Hotel du Vin is revealed to the birthday girl
  • Presents
  • My greatest fan.......
  • Souflee.......
  • Crepes
  • IMAG0126
  • Noel - full
  • I simply don't know what to say......
  • Proud - I think so.
  • Floral display
Pre-lunch drinks1 `2 3 The private dining room4 IMAG01315 The reveal - 6 7 8 Presents9 10 11 My greatest fan.......12 Souflee.......13 Crepes14 IMAG012615 Noel - full16 I simply don't know what to say......17 Proud - I think so.18 19 Floral display20
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After mother’s chateaubriand, and with various other culinary delights such as lemon sole au capres, scallops, mussels, tarte tatin, raspberry souflee and the obligatory

Would sir like coffee?’

Coffee…..dear god no, are you trying to kill me?  comments from the head of the family, so it was that, at 6pm, the Durdant-Hollambys rumbled away from lunch, hurtling towards an inevitable round of brandy and cards before the trip to Monte Carlo the following day.

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Maggies 80th – Day 1. Start as you mean to go on………….

And so it was that, on a staggeringly beautiful April morning in Sussex, 1 week of celebrations for my mother were about to start.

Given what I expected to be a decent couple of days of catering in Monte, I thought it only right to start the birthday girl’s morning with Eggs Benedict, which she duly ate in the orangerie of her house at  8am, turning up a ‘thoroughly proper’ 15 minutes late.

Eggs Benedict

The three brothers knew what was to follow at lunchtime; 5 hours of good old fashioned ‘the fizz never runs out‘ hilarity with sensational catering and magnificent service.  And, of course, we had our card ‘sharp’ on hand to wow the waitresses. All of whom, were, bizarrely, Italian.




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