A hot August night in Greece, nearly thirty years ago. On the terrace of a crumbling mansion, with views down over the town and the harbour, and out over the sea towards the low outline of Delos, dark against the sunset. The other side of the house was a wild garden, where the ruins of steps and terraces climbing the hillside could still just be made out amongst the forest of oleanders and geraniums that had long ago taken over, massed around the base of over-sized Cypress trees. We spent days clearing the main terrace of weeds, I remember, and excavating the seats alongside the huge stone table in the centre of the terrace. It was worth the effort: eating al fresco was a splendid idea in the leaden heat of a Greek summer......
Fifteen or so for dinner. An eclectic crowd. Apart from Sonia, our German hostess, I remember a Puerto Rican fan-dancer, and the assistant director of the Salzburg Festival, a local bar owner, a beautician from Amsterdam and somebody from a Lebanese shipping family....The roof of the kitchen had collapsed the previous winter, and so we prepared dinner elsewhere and carefully transported it across town in plastic boxes: chilled gazpacho, followed by cold roast pork and ratatouille. And we finished with a mountain of pears that had been poached in red wine and then glazed. And vast quantities of Lac des Roches, to drink.......All consumed by candlelight, against a backdrop of cicadas sawing insistently away in the darkness of the garden all around.
Last seen, several years ago, the property had become a five star hotel - the garden disappeared beneath buildings and pathways and a large swimming pool with views out to sea. The main house has been turned into the 'smart' restaurant for the hotel, all damask tablecloths and elegant flower arrangements. I'm told the food isn't bad......but somehow I doubt the experience matches up to my earlier memories...
Poached Egg with Ratatouille (an all-time favourite...)
Fillets of Sea Bream, with tomato and Rosemary.
Chocolate and Apricot Tart.