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Peter James: Hotel service, my own YouTube channel and gin

PUBLISHED: 12:45 25 August 2016

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Bestselling crime writer Peter James talks us through his gastronomic adventures and keeps us abreast of everything relating to his fictional detective, Roy Grace

A late friend of mine was a hotel broker, specialising in the five-star end of the market. One of his ways of rating the level of service involved taking a roll of camera film to the concierge desk, saying he needed to get it developed urgently. At the Savoy in London, he was helpfully told that if he walked down Savoy Street and into the Strand, he would find a Boots a short way along. At the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, the smiling concierge said, “Leave it with me, sir, and I’ll have it back to you first thing in the morning.” At the Peninsular in Hong Kong the concierge barked at a bell-hop, who sprinted like a scalded cat across the foyer with it. “I will have it back for you in 90 minutes, sir.”

That is service! It’s something I always think of when I enter one of my two favourite hotels in Brighton, the Hotel Du Vin, where I’ve lunched and dined dozens of times over the years, but never once spotted anyone who might be a manager – and often it’s hard to find any member of staff at all. But it is one of my favourites because I like the decor, the recently improved food, the outdoor spaces, and the general hedonistic ambience. I love The Grand for different reasons. First and foremost is the warm welcome I always get from their wonderful staff, its great bar and GB1 restaurant, and they have a world class manager in Andrew Mosley.

The Italians know a thing or two about running hotels. We’ve recently been to Venice on a research trip for my next Roy Grace novel, my first time back since I made The Merchant Of Venice film there in 2003. We stayed at the Bauer on the Grand Canale. Majestic, privately owned, terrific service and if there is a better view anywhere in the world from their breakfast terrace, I’ve yet to find it. We had dinner in three fabulous restaurants, two canal-side, La Caravella and the Gritti Terrace, and one in a delightful courtyard, L’Alcova. The highlight lunch of our short stay was Al Gatto Nero, a simple, heavenly seafood restaurant on the quietly beautiful island of Burano – itself a fishing community.

I’m jokingly calling this a Triple Treat summer for my fans with the recent hardback publication of my 12th Roy Grace novel, Love You Dead, the paperback of my ghost story novel, The House On Cold Hill in June and my first non-fiction book, which I’ve co-written with Graham Bartlett, former Commander of Brighton and Hove Police, on 14 July. I’ve also just launched my very own YouTube channel, PJTV, on which I’m putting all kinds of fun stuff about my research, travel, food and wine, writing tips and much more. You can find it on: www.peterjames.com/youtube and if you just click the ‘Subscribe’ button you’ll receive updates every time I post something new.

In one of my favourite movies, Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart delivers that classic line, “Of all the gin joints in all the world...”. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Brighton – well, Hove actually – has its very own gin joint. It is called Brighton Gin and it is delicious – perfect for my favourite cocktail of all, a martini. It is made, curiously, in the same premises as The Urchin where we dined recently on great oysters and lobsters. It has a decent wine list and a good, eclectic range of craft beers, but curiously won’t serve coffee. The coffee-flavoured beer they offered as an alternative was never going to hit that espresso spot…

Now, you can’t have your cake and eat it, but now can have it and read it! The brilliant one in the picture was made as a gift for me by Victoria Nye of Victoria Plum Cakes (victoriaplumcakes.com) to celebrate Love You Dead reaching No 1. Unfortunately the cake didn’t last long in the Team James office – it was dangerously scrummy!

I’ve discovered something else dangerously scrummy, too – Sussex wines. Last year at our wedding Lara and I had the stunning Ridgeview 2004 sparkling, but I’d not found any still UK wines with a wow factor – until I recently tried a glass of Bolney Bacchus 2014 and then the same vintage Nutbourne Bacchus. I’m always looking for the perfect summer quaffing wine. I love some Provence and Italian roses, and the Butler’s Cellar in Brighton has a classy selection, but I’ve grown tired of the sharpness of Sauvignon Blancs. Then I discovered these two Bacchus corkers. They have all the refreshing qualities of a Sauv Blanc, but a very delicious tinge of sweetness on the finish and almost a hint of elderflower. But beware, one bottle won’t last you very long – certainly not long enough to have a film developed.

Peter James donates his fee for this column to his charitable foundation supporting Sussex charities and this month’s fee will be given to South Mid Sussex Community First Responders towards funding badly needed defibrillators.

More Peter…

Peter James: Meeting heroes, selfies with Sir Alan Ayckbourn and my love for Scarborough - Bestselling crime writer Peter James talks us through his gastronomic adventures and keeps us abreast of everything relating to his fictional detective, Roy Grace

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