For the England v Australia match husband Ollie had invited the chaps round for lagers and take-away pizza to watch and, not feeling like any of the last four, I organised a girls’ night. Ivan Conway called to say as he was going to the Amex and therefore not taking up his 4 places at the dinner at the Hotel du Vin, organised as part of the Luke Wright benefit, to watch the game. Ever generous, he passed the invitation to us.
So Rustettes Nancy Bright Thompson, Bryony Bateson and Abbie Boraston-Green and myself all mobilised at the bar at 4-45pm of the du Vin to watch the South Africa v Scotland first. The hotel du Vin is my favourite hotel in Brighton. The Grand has fallen away since bought by Garfield Weston’s ABC Foods and the other sea front hotels resemble mausoleums. The du Vin is cool and under Simon Maguire, who has left, well managed. I have always eaten well there.
Last night they made one terrible error. The menu card advised us that barramundi (fish) followed ham hock terrine. I duly ordered a ridiculously expensive bottle of Maclaren Vale white wine only to be served roast beef in jus. This was fine but as they say not on the tin and needed a robust red wine. The expense of wine by the glass is one of my beefs and a medium-sized wine glass of Malbec cost me £6-50. It was also unclear whether you can order from the waitresses or in the bar and at that price you should expect service at the table. In fact one waiter was quite clipped in directing me to the bar.
As for the game, I’m no rugby expert though I enjoy an international. Nancy said that never stopped me from holding forth. I watched quite a few games in the 70s when Gareth Edwards was my hero. I had a poster of him at my boarding school St Mary Calne, next to Marc Bolan and David Essex.
Years later on assignment on reviewing restaurants in the Mumbles for the Welsh Tourist Board, I finally met Gareth and what a charming affable man he is. John Pargiter called in the morning certain of an Australian victory to as England was weak in the breakdown and advising me to back an Aussie victory by less than 12 points.
This was reflected in choosing Owen Farrell over George Ford. Farrell might score penalties with metronome accuracy but does not have that creative spark to open up play – unlike his Wallaby counterpart who scored two crucial tries.
Time after time on the 22 English prime beef charged into doughty Australian defence to little avail. As Ollie texted me “This is more like British Bulldogs than international rugby.” By this time we were tucking into another beef of mine “the traditional cheeseboard”. A cheese board can be more interesting and diverse than cheddar, brie and danish blue. This was the second time in a week that I ate a dull cheese board of these three varieties.
Of course the argument goes that the kitchen is cooking for 100. I do not accept this argument as the diners are given no choice and should showcase the cuisine. I have eaten at the Great Room of the Grosvenor with 1300 there and eaten better. This meal was about the same standard and as disappointing as the England performance.
Was it an enjoyable halfway house between home or attendance at the match? Not really. There was certainly a charged and expectant atmosphere in the room. England jerseys were worn and the few Aussies present ribbed. The dishy Luke Wright was an amiable host. I have some Milanese friends of exquisite style. I was invited to their penthouse for a superb meal and the family politely asked if they could watch this beloved Inter Milan as we ate. We duly did so and this is the only time that I found haute cuisine and sport truly mixed.