Peter James: a new kid on the Hove gastro block, one of my proudest achievements and taking on racing legend Steve Soper
PUBLISHED: 10:24 29 June 2015
Our columnist, crime novelist Peter James, keeps us up-to-date on his restaurant and travel recommendations, and everything relating to his famous detective, Roy Grace
With the publication of my 11th Roy Grace novel, You Are Dead, the past month has been even more hectic than usual. My recipe for coping with my crazy work and travel schedule is simple: I keep fit and I never miss breakfast! My father swore by that old adage: “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper.” But I’m not a believer in any of the constantly changing dietary fads, such as the ridiculous Caveman Diet we have been hearing about recently. Hello? The average caveman died at 32!
I’d rather follow the advice of Henry Allingham, the oldest British man ever, who I caught on Radio Sussex on his 112th birthday being asked the secret of his longevity: “Whisky, cigarettes and wild, wild women!” He replied. I knew one of his carers at St Dunstans and asked her if it was true. “Absolutely,” she told me. “Ten fags a day, a glass of whisky, and still flirting!” I rest my case.
But I have had some great breakfasts this month, starting with the Chabicheau Hotel in Courchevel. After six decades of skiing, thanks to an Austrian mother who dragged me on to the slopes at the age of four, I’ve finally found my favourite Alpine hotel – and it features in my 12th Roy Grace novel, which I am now writing. It has a Michelin two-star restaurant and a gorgeous cigar room: bliss!
Closer to home I found a charming new kid on the burgeoning Hove gastro block: Avenue Restaurant (65 Church Rd), and had their dangerously moreish veggie breakfast with corn fritters – one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in an age. Another great and innovative breakfast is served in Lovefit, down Queens Road from Brighton Station, where their culture is healthy food, reminding me a lot of great and innovative Sydney breakfast eateries. And for a greasy spoon with real class, look no further than Julie, who runs the mobile catering trailer at the Goodwood Motor Circuit. I raced a 1955 BMW 502 at the Members’ Meeting last month, fuelled on her bacon and egg sarnie. But I think it weighed me down too much – I came a long way back in the field!
Upscale and largeing it, Lara and I were flown by Horsham resident and former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer in his Augusta jet helicopter to Hambleton Hall – a glorious Relais Chateau hotel with sublime service, and the nicest sommelier I can remember – and a lot less expensive than another of my favourites, Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons. Well worth the three-hour schlep it would take by car to Rutland. We were joined by our friends, racing legend Steve Soper and his wife Louise – and I’m happy to report that Steve, who’s won both the Nurburgring and Spa 24 hour races, has promised to give my character Glenn Branson some driving tuition!
Hambleton Hall is famed for its smoked salmon and scrambled egg breakfast – and it would have been worth the journey just to have that! We then flew to JP’s Bedford Autodrome for one of the best fun days I’ve ever had in a car, at Palmer Sport. Full-on racing Caterhams, Formula 3000 single seaters and a host of other racing machines on proper circuits – and with brilliant hospitality. The only downer of the day was having to compete against Steve Soper. He’s a modest guy in real life, but he takes no prisoners on the circuit. He was either a speck on the horizon or an approaching blur in our mirrors!
But the month ended on a tremendous high for me – at Brighton Dome where I was presented by the Open University (where Roy Grace’s wife Cleo is studying for her degree in Philosophy) with the Honorary Degree of Master Of The University. That and the Honorary Doctorate I received in 2009 from Brighton University are two of my proudest achievements. Especially as I left school ignominiously, with failed O levels and three grade E A-levels! In my acceptance speech, I said I must be living proof of Oscar Wilde’s dictum that “Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
Peter James’s new Roy Grace novel, You Are Dead is out now. His play Dead Simple – www.deadsimpetheplay.co.uk is currently on tour.
He donates his fee for this column to his charitable foundation supporting Sussex charities and this month’s fee will be given to the Martlets Hospice.
• Peter James: balancing my busy schedule, travelling the world and my favourite Sussex seafood restaurant - Our new columnist, crime novelist Peter James, will be keeping us up-to-date on his restaurant preferences, travel recommendations, and everything relating to his famous detective, Roy Grace