The agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: How young Rocco tickles the nation's palate

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The Independent Online
I AM sorry to say there has been an awful lot of frankly snobbish talk among the chattering classes (dread section of the populace]]) concerning Lord Forte's successful advance on the Savoy group of hotels. May I set the record straight, perchance?

As a senior member of the Forte board, and as a close friend and colleague of Lord Charles and his charismatic son Rocco, I have every confidence that, under our doughty stewardship, the Savoy Group will soon find its standards well up to those of, say, the excellent and highly profitable Forte Travelodge just off the M4 outside Swindon, or the internationally renowned Shakespeare Chalet at the Grosvenor House. This latter venue, I might add, offers an excellent bargain buffet luncheon consisting of all you can eat off a plate measuring seven inches in circumference for only pounds 12.95 (service and VAT not included, no seconds permitted under any circumstances, management reserves the right to take instant retaliatory action in the high courts against those customers who attempt to return for more foodstuffs without further payment).

I have been a lifelong supporter of Trusthouse Forte since way back, and am firmly of the belief that there are few pleasures more joyous after a hard day's motoring than to relax over a steaming cup of coffee (minimum 0.8 fluid ounces, steam extra) with a delicious sachet of Countryvale UHT milk-style colouring agent and two beautifully packaged lumps of clean white sugar-style sweetener in a Forte LeisureHut. What can the lofty Savoy Group, as presently constituted, offer to rival such delight? No doubt they are snobbish enough to think that by serving the customer 'freshly ground coffee' (]]) they are doing him a great favour - but as a senior Captain of Industry, I know better than anyone that what the executive really needs at the end of a busy day is a hot cup of Nescafe-style coffee-type substance, served in pleasantly anonymous surroundings, perhaps with light background music ('Would You Like to Ride in My Beautiful, My Beautiful Ball-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooon?' being a particular favourite of mine, though nor am I ever averse to a goodly dash of Lloyd Webber) provided by my old friends and choiring partners The Mike Sammes Singers.

But the THFLeisureChalet, International Travelodge and Trusthouse GrimDive ventures are but one side of a mammoth catering operation that spans the globe. Not a 40 per cent sausage-style slimmer's special can be ordered in the Little Harvester, Port-au-Prince, nor a French-fried pomme-frite-style chip in the Reasonably Happy Eater, Basingstoke, without young Rocco being aware of it. It is this attention to detail that makes the Forte organisation pre-eminent internationally in the field of portion control, always designed with the hungry customer uppermost in our minds.

Neither let us overlook our renowned Prestige Hotel and Catering division, of which I am delighted to be Senior Adviser. So often our enemies point to the fast-food services we provide for the busy motorist and suggest that these make us somehow unfit to become stewards of more 'upmarket' operations. Yet our stewardship of the George Sank Hotel in Paris has done most to introduce British standards of catering to the very heart of French cuisine. Travellers in Paris are now able to hear the greatest hits of Jack Jones played by the London Symphony Orchestra as they ascend in the lift to the Eaterie Francaise, our new development in dining pleasure, where, for those of an adventurous disposition, such typically French concoctions as 'salad dressing' are to be found alongside more trusty English meals such as The Great British Banger with Potato-Style Mash.

A word, too, about just one of our exciting plans for the future. I can now reveal that we are in the later stages of finalising a deal with the good offices of English Heritage involving the joint running of Stonehenge, a group of stones on Salisbury Plain in sore need of refurbishment. Recognising Stonehenge as a first- class site suffering from desperately poor facilities, we have proposed an exciting new development, 'The Stonehenge Experience', offering a new roof, full double-glazing, executive-calibre furnishings and a choice of menus. What can the Savoy Group offer in return? A handful of 'smart' hotels, each of them far too grand for the average customer, many with bedrooms so oversized that they could easily be divided with deft use of hardboard into two, three or even four. Gentlemen, our case rests]