Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Basil's boutique hotel still Fawlty

"I mentioned the war, but I think I got away with it!"

By Aussiegirl

Everything old is new again, as the real Fawlty Towers is set to reopen under new management. They are, as always, aiming for a more refined class of clientele, and of course, have a temperamental and utterly incompetent chef.

Basil's boutique hotel still Fawlty - Britain - Times Online

It inspired Britain's favourite comedy, but now aspires to better things

UNLIKE Manuel, her legendary predecessor, the star of the refurbished dining room at the Gleneagles Hotel is a tall Russian law student and linguist called Alice — and she has no trouble speaking her mind.
The result is an experience every bit as unpredictable as the one John Cleese enjoyed when he checked into the hotel in 1970 and found its irrascible manager, Donald Sinclair, to be the “most wonderfully rude man I have ever met”.

But it may not quite be what the new owners had in mind when they announced their plan to convert Gleneagles into a luxury boutique hotel.

Their idea, as Basil himself once put it, is to attract “a higher class of clientele” and Prunella Scales, who played Basil’s domineering wife Sybil, is booked for the grand reopening on September 18.

Jackie at reception is more Polly than Sybil, exuding competence and warmth. The refit, she says, is almost finished despite the builders, planks and glimpses of unprotected wiring.

Wandering into the bar with its wall-mounted plasma television and sleek Art Deco-style furnishings, she chuckles over photographs of the chintzy old interior. The ground-floor ceilings have been raised, Italian chandeliers installed and more than 40 skip-loads of rubbish removed.

My double room with sea view (£79.50) is is functional but hardly beautiful, with a polysterene-effect panelled ceiling that lifts to the touch, damp patches and two out of five spotlights hanging from their sockets. The glorious view is rather spoilt by the grimy concrete roof of the bar below.

But, as the great man once put it, what was I hoping to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window — “Sydney Opera House perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically . . ?”

After a drink in the garden with Clara, the photographer, dinner (£19.95 for three courses) promises to be the highlight of our stay. Alice, 23, explains that it will not be possible for Clara to have a simple piece of grilled fish and salad because it is not on the menu and because we are ten minutes late.

“The chef is on salary, not paid by the hour. He always says, ‘Even if they book, if the are not here by 8.30, I go’.”

She adds, conspiratorially: “You are lucky I stopped him. He will make your orders and leave. I will take them out of the oven when you want to eat them.” Clara orders melon followed by breadcrumbed haddock. “I don’t eat meat either,” Alice confides. “I like the smell but it tastes like gum and is just dead flesh. I can’t help thinking about the poor cow when it was alive . . . and for you, sir?”

It has to be prawn cocktail followed by either confit of duck legs or the lasagne. Which would she recommend?

“Excuse me,” Alice says, striding over to a table of six and pointing at a bewildered looking diner. “You had the duck; what was it like?” When he meekly makes approving noises, his wife interjects. “Don’t be ridiculous. Tell them what you really thought — you said it was bland and totally lacking in flavour.”

Alice shrieks with laughter and turns back to our table. “I would have the lasagne then.”

The prawn cocktail, for the record, is obscene and the lasagne is not much better.


At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved that show. 'Manuel' always had me falling off my couch laughing.

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

I agree -- It's hard to believe that Manuel is really a very proper Englishman in real life. I often wonder if he ended up with real bruises from the beatings he took from Basil, especially about the head. Fantastically funny show, and you can watch it over and over and it's still funny.


Post a Comment

<< Home