There you are chewing the fat on Bank holiday Monday at Jenny’s gaff in Surbiton and (as one does) happen to broach the subject on the Ritz Hotel in London, and how beautiful it is and all that …..

Did you go into the bar when you went‘  pipes up the rather classy broad d’un certain age in the glasses sitting next to me.

 Actually no, I didn’t … sorry’

 ‘Oh…pity … I designed it!’

 Bit of a conversation stopper that one, especially when she then goes on to tell you she did the same thing at Claridges and The Dorchester and a number of Royal Palaces and Houses scattered around the world !

 Turns out this utterly delightful lady is seriously famous in the design world but as it turns out in the course of the afternoon also has a past which makes most modern-day  celebrities seem about as mundane and absurd as they probably are.

 She eloped at 18 to Cuba and where she and her slightly (though not much!) older beau were befriended by mobster Meyer Lansky  before escaping on a raft to Miami when Castro interrupted proceedings in Havana.

 She then proceeded to live a life one can only dream about (oh, she was an heiress to boot and so was able to live disgracefully in some considerable style!) and in the process, after studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris set up a spectacularly successful design business which is still thriving today!

 A point of discussion I particularly enjoyed was when one of our swinging party sought her views on what ‘Design Course’ she was, for some indeterminate reason, wanting to take.

 I have never taken a day’s design course in my life” she answered cooly!

 Oh how I cheered inside to hear my own despicable views on people who enrol at Universities and Technical Colleges to ‘learn‘ art or ‘learn‘ photography or ‘learn‘ fashion!  If you really need to ‘learn‘ these skills … my (and clearly her…) view was … well,  something quite unprintable ! Did Rembrandt, Armani or Snowdon ever have a minute’s ‘course’ to learn their skill…?

 Dinner proceeded in  stately fashion. Being Easter Monday we were all stuffed from yesterday and so we had soups, cheese, meats and smoked fish. All excellent and all served with far too many bottles of Prosecco!

 It was all very arty and interesting …. one guest – my immediate neighbour…oops, fell asleep for most of the afternoon but it was then explained to me that he had spent alot of time in the 1970 inhaling illegal substances which obviously made him tired and emotional at most of the time,   and absurdly cute kids played Wii tennis from the table with one hand whilst eating lunch with the other, which I thought rather cool, and of course being slightly the outsider and probably a little jaded from my drive up from the Island,  observed and listened to the goings on with great interest.

 I had however been instructed to ‘do’ the pudding and so had been to Waitrose to buy the necessary …. 2 dozen eggs and some Marsala (relying on sugar being available)  and was rather amused when our resident celebrity (who had been quietly regaling us with stories of her friendships with just about every 1960′s celebrity you can imagine – Mick Jagger, Terence Stamp, Michael Caine etc etc) wandered into the kitchen and insisted on helping me make the pudding, which was to be a Zabaglione !

 She expertly separated the eggs and hulled and sliced the strawberries whilst I prepared the Bain Marie, added a tad too much sugar and slugged the whole thing with a flood of Marsala.

Being something of a social climber I insisted on having our photo taken together, and so whilst trying to arrange the Bain Marie, cuddle my helper, direct the cameraman, pour the Marsala into the bowl AND operate the electric whisk… all at the same time …. I failed to notice the cable of the whisk melting in the flames of the stove and so first we had to make running repairs with Sellotape and masking tape!

 But it all came out well in the end. I served it over the strawberries in a wine glass and added some Amaretti biscuits which is a must with Zabaglione. It was admired and praised … I think a couple of people even had a couple of mouthfuls of it !

 A fun afternoon with some interesting and entertaining company !

Previous dinner posts from Peter

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