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A Bajan blowout on cod, chips and steak and kidney pud

Published 8 February 2004
News Review
552nd article

Nissen hut decor: Roberts and Grootenboer with Winner at Groots (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

In old black and white English films set in the north someone always said: "There's trouble at mill." Then lots of people in clogs would run up and down cobblestones looking worried. There's a bit of that, ex clogs and cobblestones, at my favourite Barbados restaurant, the Lone Star.

It has two bosses. Steve Cox is a London restaurateur with a place in Richmond. He looks like an unshaven beachcomber who hasn't found much of value. The principal shareholder, Christian Roberts, played the juvenile lead in the Sixties opposite Lulu in To Sir With Love, which starred Sidney Poitier. Christian also starred in the hit stage musical. Return to the Forbidden Planet.

Now he and Steve have fallen out, Christian wants him gone, and the matter is slugging its way through the Barbados judiciary.

On my last visit I had superb spiny lobster, but mainly stuck to the Lone Star's excellent chicken balti marsala with poppadoms, rice and chutney. When I tried their crispy duck Chinese style with pancakes, I wished I hadn't. Still, they had my special red and yellow jelly to console me.

I dropped in to the Cliff, which can do very good food. but this time produced a miserable Bajan version of a New York-cut steak. Instead of being a solid piece of fillet with large cuts in it, it was five separate strips of steak, well done instead of medium rare as I’d asked.

Perhaps to take his mind off legal wrangling, probably because he knew I was an enchanting dinner guest, Christian invited Geraldine and me to Groots, a hut on the wrong side of the west coast highway. Not overlooking the sea.

"We used to have a nice view of the bus stop, but the plant has grown," explained the owner, Hans Grootenboer, from Warrington. He's of Dutch extraction.

I enjoyed myself immensely. There's a big U-shaped bar full of people you'd never see at Sandy Lane and an opening to the dining area. This has enormous tables, well spaced apart. The decor is second world war Nissen hut. Diners are encouraged to write on the walls in black marker pens. I produced a masterful cartoon of me and a glowing Groots recommendation.

I'd asked the waitress for still water but that didn't turn up, so I reminded Hans. "I'm not a great fan of water myself," he said, producing a plastic bottle labelled "Aqua. It's hydrating British athletes". It was surprisingly good.

It was now raining heavily. "We only get the drips here," said Hans, thankfully pointing to the table behind me, which was receiving the leak.

"Should I have the shrimp cocktail starter or the cabbage roll?" I asked. "Shrimp cocktail," said Hans, "the cabbage rolls aren't good. The girls put too much tomato in the seasoning."

I thought: "He's got exactly the son of Lancashire accent needed to say 'There's trouble at mill'." I remained unswerving even when Hans pointed out Warrington was in Cheshire.

I ordered cod with chips and mushy peas, also mashed potatoes with steak and kidney pudding. Nothing is too much trouble for me in my role of food investigator.

My shrimp cocktail was the old-fashioned kind with a pink sauce and crisp lettuce. The shrimps were warm, which was odd. But it was very pleasant.

The portions were enormous. I strongly recommend you eat, at the same time, cod and chips with steak and kidney pudding. I went from one to the other.

The mushy peas were the best ever. Geraldine kept nicking them. The chips were cut on the premises from real potatoes. not bought in as they are at nearly every London restaurant. The cod was okay to good, the batter sensational. The steak and kidney excellent.

"Kidney is very cheap on this island, because the Bajans don't eat it, they throw it away," explained Hans. adding. "I sat 3½ hours here today waiting for deliveries that never turned up."

"Is that unusual?" I asked. "No." said Hans.

He then shot into restaurant stratosphere by delivering a fantastic treacle pudding. It had treacle on top that tasted of treacle, it was kind of settling into the pudding. It was really very, very good. The custard was superb, too.

If you go to Barbados, never mind all the restaurants trying to be clever, Visit Hans. Even though he did say to Geraldine, when I went for the car: "If you want to escape, come here and have a drink."

  • PS: I'm deeply indebted to various readers who wrote in recommending thin bacon which would "crisp" when grilled. So far I've sampled three - cooking them all by myself! I'll try some more and report soon.

    Winner's letters

    Your column is always enjoyable if sometimes a little fanciful. But your comments regarding the Wolseley last week - "the best dining experience in London" - oh dear! I've been there. Clearly you've been working too hard and need a short holiday. I'm sure you'll soon recover your senses and I'll watch impatiently for your return.
    David Miller, London

    In the photo of yourself and the radiant Geraldine Lynton-Edwards outside the Wolseley I noticed she had her arm surreptitiously around the waist of Jeremy King - a man who could be described even by the most casual observer as being taller, younger, more dapper and considerably more handsome than yourself. For a gentleman of your advanced years the prospect of being so publicly cuckolded must be a very demeaning experience. I'm sure you'll point out to Geraldine her wayward ways.
    Alan Rhodes, Nottinghamshire

    Does Michael Winner have any heirs? If not, what will we do when he himself becomes historic? This needs sorting. Also, the Bloody Marys at the Wolseley are the worst ever.
    Jane Jones, London

    Glynn McDonald (Winner’s Letters, January 25) hoped you'd explode at an inconvenient moment. If you do, could I please have the Roller?
    PJ Mcvean, Hampshire

    As Michael is digging his grave with his teeth, I suggest a contest for his most succinct epitaph. My entry is: "Chomped - bonked - conked!"
    Veronica Coulson, Leicestershire

    The solution to containing the atrocious activities of airborne children is simple, tried and tested. They should be sedated and placed in the cargo bay together with other wildlife and resuscitated only on arrival.
    Anthony Rogers, Cornwall

    Why do you insist on wearing your shirt outside your trousers? In a man of your age it is both common and ridiculous. If you're going to persist in this unseemly habit go the whole hog and get a shell suit.
    Chris Morgan, Oxfordshire

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    Tony Spear, Oxfordshire

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