I was indeed lucky to be able to celebrate my birthday at Reid's Palace Hotel. She is after all one of the grand old ladies of the world's most luxurious hotels: as Raffles hotel is to Singapore, so Reid's Palace is to Madeira. Grand old lady she might be, after all she dates back to 1891, still retaining an air of tradition, elegance and grandeur, but there is nothing old fashioned about her, she has been brought right up to date to cater for today's guests.
We celebrated in the elegant bar sipping champagne and nibbling the most superb canapés looking out over the hotel's beautiful garden across to Funchal harbour. An hour later we adjourned to the Ristorante Villa Cipriani in the hotel grounds for a dinner impeccably served and utterly, utterly delicious. Tactfully they only put a token candle on the cake! There are several restaurants at Reid's, the Cipriani serves Italian style dishes.
Way back in 1836 a young 14 year old cabin boy named William Reid arrived on Madeira. He made good in the wine trade and acquired a fortune. He bought properties and let them out to holiday makers but his aim was to build a hotel – a hotel that would bear his name and be unique on the island.
In 1887 he found a plot of land on a rocky out crop on the edge of Funchal, brought in tons of soil to create a garden and began to build his dream hotel. Sadly he died before he could see its completion and it was left to his two sons William and Alfred to open the hotel in 1891.
Royalty visited, as did celebrities of the day, amongst them Captain Scott and George Bernard Shaw. In 1937 Reid's passed into the hands of the Blandy wine family who added new wings and other additions to appeal to guests. A suite is named after one of the hotel's most distinguished guests - Winston Churchill. In 1996 the hotel became part of Orient-Express Hotels Inc. www.reidspalace.com
Monkfish, mussel and prawn bouillabaisse Madeira style
Reid's Palace Hotel, Madeira has very kindly given us permission to publish one of its most popular dishes.
500g potato (make cylinder and cut in coins, three pieces per dish)
600g peeled tomato
500ml fish stock
500ml white wine
300g mixed bell pepper (peeled)
10 bay leaves
olive oil as needed
5g curry powder
5g paprika powder
50g tomato paste
30 pieces monkfish (25g each boneless)