Peter James: Why speaking English kills you, Goodwood Revival and a trip to Malaga

Lara and Peter James at Goodwood Revival

Lara and Peter James at Goodwood Revival - Credit: Archant

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

There is so much guidance on food and drink put out by our nanny state government, much of it based on utterly false and misleading information. Butter is bad, butter is good. According to information some months ago from our idiotic Ministry of Food & Beverage Fear, drinking just one glass of wine a year might kill you – despite Lloyds actuarial statistics which show that moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers. Sugar is the new Antichrist and now the Ministry wants to force restaurants to serve smaller puddings. Will it then become the law that no one may order more than one pudding per meal?

Some of our politicians would do well to remember the following, which is as rational as any of their arguments: it is said the Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. The conclusion? Eat and drink what you like. It is speaking English that kills you.

And few things are more quintessentially English than the annual Goodwood Revival, which is the highlight of my motor-racing year. I was fortunate enough to compete in the two-part St Mary’s Trophy with my co-driver, racing commentator Amanda Stretton, in my 1958 Austin A35. We had what has become an annual challenge with former Dragon Theo Paphitis, who is a keen racer, for a magnum of Champagne to whoever had the fastest time over the two races. But we were somewhat disadvantaged when he cheerily told us that his co-driver this year was going to be seven-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen. We only lost by a creditable three seconds on aggregate and I took great pleasure in overtaking Theo!

What makes the Revival so very special is Lord March’s incredible eye for detail, which comes in part from his background as a photographer. Everything at the Revival is in period. We had our friend and Brighton tailoring legend Gresham Blake and his wife Fal design and make our bespoke matching outfits (pictured) – and if you look closely you’ll spot the handcuff motif!

The spectacular costumed ball is hands down the party of the year. Lara and I went to this year’s ball as Detective Superintendent and Mrs Batman!

Food is a major part of the Revival, and on sale everywhere is the superb red meat farmed on the Goodwood Estate. Earlier this year we ate in the Kennels restaurant, which I love, and during the Revival we had dinner at the Richmond Arms at the Goodwood Hotel, with touring car legend Steve Soper and his adventurer wife Louise, and Rob Gravett, as well as former Blue Peter presenter, lovely Sarah Greene, widow of former DJ and racer, Mike Smith. I was very impressed with the standard of food and service in this charming restaurant – as I was last year. We were looked after attentively on a busy night, and they have a seriously good wine list approaching bargain basement prices.

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Goodwood Revival is featured in my ghost story novel, The House On Cold Hill, but it will be much more prominent in a future Roy Grace novel I have planned about a murder in the classic car racing this space.

We flew to Malaga after the Revival, where I was visiting a number of ex-pat villains I met a few years ago, and we had two excellent meals there. One, to my surprise, was in a very showy restaurant in La Cala called Olivia’s, owned by a former The Only Way Is Essex (whatever that is) cast member. The staff were a total delight and the quality of the food and wines quite superb. Then a rapid climate change and a trip on book promotion to freezing, wet Helsinki – a very pretty and charming city. We stayed in a Radisson Blu, a pleasant, modern, international chain, but with quite superlative breakfasts that would give any hotel, and I mean any hotel – except the Four Seasons Kempinski in Munich, which is the very best – a run for its money.

But what would the Ministry of Gastro Fear make of it?

I’m sure right now an army of Whitehall miseries are spreading out to Radisson Blus around the nation, measuring the size of the porridge bowls, looking for something they can ban one day.

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