Royal (Westmoreland) treatment - Barbados
“I don’t think my neighbour is in,” says John Morphet peering over his balcony.
The absent “neighbour” is Gary Lineker and Morphet is master of all we survey. Under surveillance is his Royal Westmoreland estate in Barbados, a 500-acre belt of luxury villas situated on the Royal Westmoreland Golf and Country Club, itself a fixture on the world’s top ten of golfing residential resorts. Sat Bal reports
From Morphet’s colonial-style mansion villa we’re afforded an uninterrupted vista of lush greenery, ocean swirl and deep blue west coast Barbados sky. Here, on the aptly named Flamboyant Drive, Morphet’s native Lancashire might be out of sight but it’s not out of mind.
The multi-million pound sale of his Lancashire-based South Lakeland Caravans business bolstered the fortunes of his Pure Leisure Group (PLG) which also owns Billing Aquadrome in Northampton. “Plcs had moved into our industry, they didn’t understand it and took on too much debt, expanded too quickly and failed,” he explains. “I sold before the rot set in."
Morphet’s prescient acquisition of Royal Westmoreland for circa £53m saw corporate kingpins and celebrities flock to buy million-pound plus villas. Owners included the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Mike Gatting, Andrew Flintoff and, of course, Morphet’s elusive neighbour, Gary Lineker. Kiera Knightley, Hugh Grant and Caprice have also added to the visitor star quotient. Here, on Royal Westmoreland, between $1.25m and $1.5m will buy you a 30,000sq ft plot on the newly developed Mahogany Drive leaving your imagination to design and build the dream villa.
For corporate event organisers the obvious magnet is the 18-hole championship golf course designed byinternationally renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Guests of Royal Westmoreland bypass the need to shell out the $25,000 joining fee and $10,500 annual membership fees that allow course access.
Not for nothing does US Masters Champion Ian Woosnam claim that the par 3s are among the best he's played in the world.
Golf’s association with corporates makes Royal Westmoreland a firm event fixture for company incentive and motivational trips. “We’ve hosted for delegates from major banks and professional companies including Price WaterHouse Coopers, HSBC and RBS,” says Morphet. "During the DGM Open we have a three-day Pro-Am section especially for companies to invite their top clients for corporate hospitality and play golf."
John Morphet and England Cricket Captain, Michael Vaughan at Royal Westmorelands
Two miles from the capital, Bridgetown, the venue has hosted conferences for the United Nations and U.S. and Caribbean government heads, aided by a media centre with television editing suites and microwave television link.
“As an incentive it has a strong image as being a luxury, up market destination, helped by its celebrity connections." Tony Jackson IDS London
Caribbean castaway - our Coconut Grove villa for two weeks
Red Carpet stayed at RWM's spacious Coconut Grove and experienced world-standard villa life. Air-conditioned inside with a private pool glistening outside, we wanted for nothing. The four-bedroomed cocoon came with a housekeeper and maid and the hospitality was no-fuss, efficiency. Can we host a dinner party? 'Yes' said the obliging catering team who consulted with us re menu and off-menu fare. With precision timing wheeled trolleys laden with party fare arrived at the villa and made for a fantastic night.
Elsewhere, 15 minutes away from the main Grantley Adams airport, the new Hilton Barbados features over 10,000 sq.ft. of meeting space and includes a boardroom, three divisible meeting rooms and a 6,200 sq. ft. ballroom with capacity for up to 570 people with wireless internet access facilities.
Certainly, Barbados is a hit for conference production and event management company IDS London Ltd, whose head, Tony Jackson organises far-flung corporate events.
“We suggest Barbados as one of a number of long haul destinations as it is a safe island with plenty of local interest and opportunities to create diverse and imaginative programmes,” says Jackson. “As an incentive it has a strong image as being a luxury, up market destination, helped by its celebrity connections.”
The Cliff Restaurant
If there’s one restaurant that epitomises the languid relaxation of Caribbean dining it has to be The Cliff. Our view from this clifftop venue came into its own at night when candles and torches subtly induce an otherworldly glow. We were entranced by the artificially illumined waters of the bay below and the shimmering languor of the setting.
The sultry reverie is only shaken up by the arrival of the food. This sees the table laden, chronologically, with foie gras and chicken liver parfait,smoked salmon ravioli and sautéed scallops on a truffle mash followed by main courses of grilled snapper in vinaigrette coriander sauce and Thai curried shrimp. Naturally, the seafood oozes freshness and the menu is replete with fish, meat and vegetarian choices. The unrushed atmosphere makes the dessert menu inevitable although choosing between white chocolate cheesecake and the crème brulee might not be so straightforward. The wine list includes vintage (and NV) champagne from the leading houses and a global selection of wines.
Chef, co-owner and author Paul Owens has succeeded in creating an optimal blend of service, presentation and cuisine, tempting the palates of royalty, celebrity and well-heeled holidaymakers alike.
So good, you forget the momentary pain of paying around £150 a head for dinner and drinks.
For a more laid back approach to Barbadian hospitality The Boatyard caters for the fun-seeking crowd. Rum and coke and thumping house and retro reggae mixes make this bar restaurant a magnet for the local youth and overseas party animals alike.
"The crowd is very diverse and this is what makes it work," says Boatyard co-owner, Sean DeFreitas.
"It's an exciting mix of international jet set, professionals, airline and shipping crews and local faces about town. They're here to get down to the music, dine in our restaurant and enjoy our beachfront location."
This location sees the infamous "Booze Cruise" ship, Harbour Master, decant up to 800 revellers at The Boatyard where they file across the bridge and hit the dancefloor until the early hours."The travel professionals have a lot of fun here ," DeFreitas says. "Virgin have their 'Birdman' event here when staff, including Richard Branson, will jump off our pier into the sea. Crew from cruise ships will dock here to enjoy themselves and it means there's an everchanging scenery of people."
The Boatyard is open daily, 365 days a year located on the outskirts of the capital Bridgetown.