Lamb With Leeks and Carrots and…Fawlty Towers

It’s incredible that a TV show that first aired in the UK in 1975 with a run of only 12 episodes is still almost as popular and well-known today as it was 35 years ago.  So you would think that when a resort promotes itself as, ‘a small exclusive luxury resort’, it would recognise what it is that makes Basil Fawlty’s resort ‘faulty’ and aim to be as dissimilar as possible.

Lamb with Leeks and Carrots

Recently good friends of mine saved their pennies to travel to ‘a small exclusive luxury resort’ in Fiji to celebrate their milestone wedding anniversary.  They arrived in Nadi unscathed but then had to board a light aircraft to the resort.  The light aircraft was very light indeed as most of the metal was missing and holes could be seen in the walls and the floor.

Here’s what someone on Trip Advisor had to say about the same flight:

It’s ‘a journey that can only be described as the closest I’ve ever come to breaking down big-style in an plane…I was instructed to stand on the weighing scales holding all carry-on luggage.  My initial laughter at what I assumed to be a joke soon turned to horror as I realised it was in fact a reality and I hauled ass up onto the bag weighing machine (all excess weight was of course attributed to my exceptionally heavy hand-baggage!)  The subsequent flight can only be described as the Flight from Hell.  The plane was a DHC-6 Twin Otter = 18 seats = Indiana Jones style VERY VERY  SMALL PLANE..and the flight was 1hr 30 mins long.  I swear I’ve never been swayed or moved or shunted or TERRIFIED as much as I was in this paper aircraft with gaps where the stairs pulled up and no cockpit door.  It was 90 minutes of sweat-drenched terror that only subsided when we shuddered to a stop on the runway.  AND I’ve since discovered that the return journey by boat takes like a day and a half and is twice as expensive as flying so I have to make this same death-defying journey back to Nadi again on Saturday. ARGH!’

Tim and Ali arrived relieved just to have survived and met the Kiwi couple who were running the resort and then a Fijian escorted them to their ‘luxury bure’.  They were expecting it to be authentically Fijian looking but it had the architectural finesse of a kit home.  Ali noticed there were no shower caps provided and as she hadn’t thought to pack one, phoned and asked for a shower cap only to be rubbished for even wanting one,  ‘What would you want one of those for when wet hair can dry so quickly?’

The resort had a beautiful wet-edge pool and as soon as Tim and Ali were unpacked they headed over for a swim.  They were about to unwind in the pool when the manager’s two enormous dobermans with mouths open wide, salivating with tongues extended, galloped past them and launched themselves into the pool where they splashed around, barked, cooled off, then climbed out and shook themselves all over the guests.

Then it was dinner time.  On the resort’s website it says, ‘Our chefs…create a delight of culinary experiences’.  Well there was chicken or there was fish.  And Ali doesn’t eat fish.  And so twice a day for five days she had chicken, ‘So much that I think I’m sprouting feathers’, she told me.  And every meal started with soup and they just couldn’t understand it because they thought the meal would start with cuisine more suited to the climate like something cool, light and refreshing.

The next day was their anniversary and so we thought we would organise for a bottle of champagne to be sent to their room with a card.  I phoned to organise it and followed this up with five emails.  You would think nothing could go wrong with that kind of attention to detail but just like Fawlty Towers, everything unraveled.

They received the card at lunchtime minus the champagne.  They had brought their own bottle of Moet with them and had a glass in their bure as a pre-dinner drink.  They then went to the restaurant for the chicken or the fish option and at the end of the meal, were presented with the champagne.  As they had already consumed a few alcoholic beverages, the moment of its arrival was wasted.  I sent an email to the resort asking, ‘please explain’ and this was the reply:

‘We were waiting for your friends to leave their villa to give them the champagne but when they arrived they were quite late and had already had a bottle of Champagne which they had brought with them (I think it was Moet) in their room, before coming down to dinner.  We had no idea of this private celebration, and we do not disturb guests before dinner as many take a sleep.

I do apologise for our incompetence.

We did prepare a romantic dinner for them, which they declined and the staff made a special cake, which they presented to them and sang happy anniversary and they cut it and wished.  Your friends appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves that evening for the celebration.

The reason they ‘appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves’ is because they were in hysterics at being serenaded by a ukulele and dining on more chicken.

The next day they went on one of the many tours offered, this one a day out on a boat.  The boat driver, (who was actually the gardener because they’d seen him with a wheelbarrow but he also masqueraded as the tour director) accidentally filled the motor with petrol instead of diesel so they couldn’t go anywhere.

So the boat driver/gardener/tour director suggested instead they trek down to the waterfall.  He said you could get there in 10 minutes in bare feet.  Tim and Ali headed there in thongs stepping cautiously over the cane toads and it was 50 minutes before they arrived.

The rest of their holiday was spent bracing themselves for the return flight to Nadi.

This holiday made Tim and Ali feel like they were on the set of the 13th episode of Fawlty Towers.  And perhaps this is not too hard to believe given the inspiration for the brilliant creation came from John Cleese’s own experiences of staying in a hotel in Devon in 1971 where the hotel manager was, ‘“the most wonderfully rude man I have ever met.”  And it was his antics and the way he treated guests that led to the wonderful six hours of television we all surely treasure.

Here’s just a little snippet of some stellar TV for your Saturday night – it’s John Cleese talking about his favourite episode:

Now, I wanted to make sure Arabella was well-fed before she was transported to her study camp and so knowing she wouldn’t eat ‘meat and three veg’ I turned chops into a lamb casserole.  The results were wonderful and only dampened by the fact she went out for a cheeseburger.

Lamb with Leeks and Carrots:

Sweating the Leeks and Carrots

Serves:  4-6

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5 (because this is a one-pot meal)

Cost:  For me it was minimal because I used ingredients I had in my fridge and pantry, only having to shop for the leeks.

  • 2 tbspns olive oil
  • 8 lamb chump chops
  • 2 leeks washed, rinsed and sliced
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 375mls chicken stock
  • 1 can tinned tomatoes
  • handful of freshly chopped herbs like parsley and thyme

Pre-heat oven to 160C.

Heat a large casserole dish on the stove over high heat.  Add the olive oil and sear the chops in batches on both sides until golden.  Remove and set aside.

Turn down the heat and add leeks, carrots and garlic and stir until softened (about 5 mins).

Add red wine and bring to the boil.  Add stock, tomatoes and herbs.

Cover and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until lamb is tender and falling off the bone.  Serve as is or with a herby mash (I added finely chopped herbs to the mash including chives, parsley and thyme).

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  1. I was putting my money on Ratatouille.

  2. Enjoy reading your blog it always gives me a good laugh. Loved watching Fawlty Towers. I never understand why your teenager eats macdonalds when you make the most amazing food?? Will enjoy making your lamb dish this winter. I made Harira with goat meat last night. Do you have any goat recipes?

  3. I cannot imagine how JT and I never got into a situation like your friends before Trip Advisor! TA is my Go To place before any bookings; yelp is amazing too. And I always Google ‘place + reviews’ too. LOVE the Google!
    The Lamb stew sounds delish; it was Arsbella’s loss that she chose a burger over your food, Charlie.

  4. Congrats again on your nomination, I was just over there voting for you! I must say, the page is extremely cumbersome and difficult to navigate. Or maybe it’s the iPhone interface (as I laze in bed at ten to eight on this Saturday morningz!)
    Good luck Charlie!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks Eva. Yes, I found it a bit difficulty too. After choosing who you want to vote for you should be able to jump to the end page but no, you have to do lots of scrolling and clicking. Thanks for making the effort. xx

  5. I haven’t read any blogs for around 3 weeks and, I tell you, I have seriously missed your entertaining anecdotes!

    And I’m glad your friends managed to get a laugh out of their trip, while I’m left wondering how on earth you sing “happy anniversary” haha.

  6. That sounds like the worst trip EVER. I would have cried the entire flight. And that would only have been the beginning.

  7. I love Fawlty Towers, but even though the series always makes me laugh, I wouldn’t laugh at all if I experienced what your friends have lived through…

  8. I’m making lamb today, so I hope it turns out as tasty as yours!

  9. Yikes. That is one of those vacation where you try to escape. Your daughter doesn’t appreciate your cooking enough. My husband and would be waiting at the dinner table for anything you cooked. This looks simple enough I could master it. I would put it in the oven to cook and catch up on those episodes.

  10. Hilarious.. I remember that show! What a nightmare.. I love to surf the internet for reviews first.. I just can’t even imagine!!!

  11. That trip sounds like a nightmare, worse than Mr. Fawlty ever was. God I love that show.

  12. I have no idea what that show is but the recipe sure does look delicious!

  13. HI,
    I can only imagine how terrible that flight must of been, sooner or later that little plane is just not going to make it, it can’t last like that forever. I dread to think about it.
    It really does sound like a place to stay away from, I love the explanation that was given about the Champagne, unbelievable.

  14. I hope that the widespread use of Yelp and other such sites will either force the real Fawlty Towers to improve or close. They cannot forever rely on hapless tourists to cheat.

    I admire how you can just go into the fridge and seemingly without effort whip up a great dinner or dessert, Charlie. This meal is a good example of your skills. And yet she chose a cheeseburger. Ah, youth …

  15. I think I have every episode of Fawlty Towers memorized! And they still work so well–fabulous comedy. Just fabulous.

    What a story! Yikes! And the recipe looks comforting as well–do I always say that? Is all food just comforting to me???????

  16. Oh, small planes are always a little scary. I’ve been lucky to have survived probably four of those kinds of trips. Knock on wood! 😉

  17. I saw John Cleese live recently talking about Fawlty Towers – the guy who ran the place that was the inspiration for the show was breathtakingly rude. His wife said John Cleese got it wrong and it was all a fabrication – but then all the other people who had stayed wrote n backing up Cleese. Your poor friends – I would have demanded a refund and reported them to the Department of Fair Trading. On a brighter note, the meal you made to ensure that your daughter was sustained looks perfect for the cooler weather we have been having.

  18. It’s always the trips for special occasions, like anniversaries, that turn out like this! I might have needed another bottle of champagne before boarding that little plane for the return flight.

    Your casserole looks great with those pretty leaks and the other vegetables.

  19. I am all about one pot meals and this one looks delicious! Mike and Mr. N especially love lamb. 🙂

  20. Oh gosh. And at the end of it all they had the flight back on the small plane again! I bet they were glad to get home. They’d probably have loved some of this one pot meal too.

  21. Magnolia Verandah says:

    What should have been romantic sounds like the holiday from hell! Bet they would have loved the option of your lamb casserole instead of chicken/fish.

  22. I don’t understand why your daughter would want a fast-food burger when she could have this amazing meal!!
    I guess you never know how a trip will turn out…

  23. Oh dear! That’s not exactly the holiday anyone would want is it? And I didn’t realise that Fawlty Towers only spanned 12 episodes although it would explain why I seem to have seen every episode that has been replayed 🙂

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Yes, hard to believe it was only 2 episodes. Six in 1975 and another six in 1979. But like Elvis, Fawlty Towers keeps on living! xx

  24. wow!! that really is a crappy ‘resort’… sad that they had to celebrate their anniversary at such an incompetent place! im sure arabella loved the home cooked meal, looks yummy

  25. I love the look of this. Would be a good one in the slow cooker too.

    At least it was a trip to remember!

  26. Beautiful post… beautiful recipe and photographs… Thank you dear Charlie, it is always so enjoyable to read your blog. With my love, nia

  27. What a terrible thing for your friends. Hardly a holiday. Typical that you cooked something that was preceded by a burger

  28. This looks wonderful. I’ve never cooked lamb and have been thinking I need to try it. I think if I use your recipe, I can’t go wrong.

  29. Omg…that sounds like a horrible holiday 🙁 i feel so sorry for your friends that they had to endure that horrible flight and the bad food and service there….and the fact that they were rude about it too when they emailed you back..not good enough 🙁 but i guess it’s still an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives hehe ~

  30. What a horror story! Well, I know where NOT to go for a holiday. Fawlty Towers makes such good comedy though, out of an equally ghastly experience. Thanks for the clip.

  31. Are there no regulations that would ground an aircraft like this one? With that awful flight and the horrible resort, this sounds like the worst trip ever. Did your friends complain/get a partial refund?

  32. I laughed all the way through this one! apart from the recipe which looks great.

  33. I love Fawlty Towers, you cringe, laugh and cry through the whole episode! I would pick your dinner over Maccas anyday!

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