Sunday, 23 September 2018

Aw, shucks! Grace Jones will sample my oysters at festival

Aw, shucks! Grace Jones will sample my oysters at festival

I HAVE to give Grace Jones my oyster knife — apparently she always shucks her own oysters, writes Paul Clerehugh.

Grace enjoys two dozen Colchester oysters before going on stage, washed down with Louis Roederer Cristal champagne.

Who can forget Grace beating up Russell Harty on his chat show — when turning his back to interview another guest. Also fighting with Duran Duran after they won a Grammy she was nominated for.

I’ll be exquisitely charming to Ms Jones while she’s wielding the oyster knife. Genuine charm — I’ve had the hots since she starred with Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. Saw her at Wilderness festival last summer. An extraordinary, quite unbelievable show — one of the most entertaining, shockingly good, extravagant performances I’ve ever enjoyed. Body paint — not sure there was a stitch of clothing.

The stars’ dressing rooms form part of my Henley Festival Crooked Billet
pop-up restaurant. If you fancy a selfie with Rita Ora or a flute of champagne with Grace Jones, come and hang out with us — join us for a drink or a bite.

The Crooked Billet bar & restaurant is back at the festival from July 11 to 15. A wabi sabi mish-mash of sexy shabby tattiness. God knows how I get our distressed junk shop look past the artistic eye of Stewart, the festival’s creative director. He’s OCD about the festival’s sharp look. Catch him early morning, mowing stripes into the festival lawn.

The Crooked Billet offers relaxed informal dining — 200 candlelit tables on the riverside. No need to book. Dishes from £10 including Lebanese lamb, sea bass, rotisserie herb chicken, salt beef, king prawns, crunchy fresh field to fork salads, crispy duck. A local cheeseboard including St Bart’s from Nettlebed.

Puds include Oreo cheesecake with salted butterscotch, raspberry meringue. I’ll bring my Mr Whippy ice cream machine for Jamaican mess — Muscovado caramel, banana, honeycomb, Mr Whippy and dark rum.

Incidentally, Grace Jones is Jamaican, but favours sambuca over dark rum. Wonder if she’s tried my Mr Whippy? I’ll have Sambuca in stock just in case.

We have the stars’ backstage dietary requirements — you’ll have to buy me a drink to share that gossip.

Dame Shirley Bassey caught us out in 2016 when she went “off rider” by asking for 100g of Beluga caviar and a yellow jumper. We obliged — got the knitwear from M&Co in Henley!

Ms Jones’s diva outbursts are nothing compared to the numerous profile and celebrity chefs cooking at the festival. Culinary Glastonbury. A brilliantly eclectic mix of restaurants and eateries.

Former Gordon Ramsey prodigy Angela Hartnett has written the menu for the Riverside Restaurant if you fancy something swanky and splashing the cash.

There’s a great selection of affordable grazing — Snob Lobster serving their classic lobster roll. Then there’s BBQ Club’s gourmet burgers, pop-up Pizza Express, and check out the Cooking Cooks with Francesco and Alice serving beautiful handmade pasta.

And I’m delighted Henley’s Spice Merchant are bringing their delicious contemporary Indian flavours and magical friendly service to the festival.

Reading’s Michelin-acclaimed London Street Brasserie will also pop up at the festival, offering bistro classics such as lobster frit de mere, slow roast crispy duck, Caesar salads, steak and chips. Find them in the Jazz Spiegeltent and enjoy incredible live music whilst eating. For bookings call 07379 244926.

You will find myself and the Crooked Billet bar and restaurant opposite the main entrance. A shabby chic Chelsea Flower Show of rusty wheelbarrows and old pianos planted out with cascades of nasturtiums, dahlias and lobelia, colour of wine gums adjoin our wonderful prime location.

Perhaps bump into Rita Ora, Nile Rodgers, Paul Merton, Curtis Stingers, Rob Brydon or Grace Jones in our bar.

I’m cooking every night from an open-plan canteen kitchen. Affordable, unstuffy, friendly, riverside al fresco dining. It would be an honour to see you — come and say hello.

Grace Jones plays the Floating Stage at the Henley Festival at 8.45pm on Thursday, July 12.

• Paul Clerehugh is chef patron of the Crooked Billet, Stoke Row, and the London Street Brasserie, Reading. Catch his weekly Food on Friday show on BBC Radio Berkshire from 2pm to 3pm — tune in for recipes, foodie affairs and light-hearted kitchen chat.

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