Big-spending Joe Robertson is the tycoon who transformed life for Tyneside’s tipplers. He introduced a chain of lavishly decorated up-market wine bars to Newcastle and watched his business take off.
Early in 1984 he sold out – for £2m. – and promptly proceeded to build up another chain of wine bars which remain among the busiest in the region. He also has drinking establishments in London which are doing very nicely thank you.
Many of this ideas stem from his extensive travels around the world and he is a “cognoscenti” of wine, food, hospitality and life in the fast lane. One of his favourite pastimes is staying – “mainly on business combined with pleasure” – at the leading hotels in Europe and the U.S. Here he lists his 10 favourite five-star accommodation spots.
- Hotel De Paris, Monte Carlo
It oozes style and class. I go to Monaco a lot and, every year, I make a pilgrimage to “Monte” for the Grand Prix. I’ll never forget the G.P. in 1984 which was stopped halfway through because of rain. I was staying at the Hotel de Paris and I took a dozen Geordie mates there. We looked like drowned rats and had to wash and brush up in the loo – using the hot air drying machines to look the part. Goodness knows what the hotel staff thought but we emerged trying to look like jet-setters. It must have worked – they didn’t kick us out!
- Carlton Hotel, Cannes
My other South of France favourite. I remember going there with my wife, Sharon, in 1982. I only had £7 in my pocket and discovered that hardly anywhere on the Cote D’Azur accepted credit cards. When I got the hotel bill after a five-day stay I feigned amazement that they didn’t take American Express. Even though they didn’t know me from a bar of soap they calmly announced: “We’ll send your bill to Newcastle.” It came three months later – £2,500. That’s what I call service.
- Intercontinental Hotel, London
In the late Seventies I used to manufacture mirrors and went to Germany every week to get new orders. I used to fly back from Dusseldorf on the last flight and zoom to the Intercontinental. The staff are brilliant and so helpful. Once I “stayed” there after a night at the Playboy Club in Park Lane. The maid found me the next morning asleep in all my clothes underneath the TV set. I hadn’t been to bed and I didn’t even have time for breakfast as I had an appointment!
The best floating hotel in the world. I used it for my honeymoon and stayed in a state room called the Queen Mary which was only allocated to me three days before we married! I remember Raiders of the Lost Ark was the in-ship film at the time. Twice after a glorious meal I fell asleep watching it. Then, in New York, I tried to see the film again and fell asleep. Finally, back in London, at the fourth attempt I finally caught up with Mr. Harrison Ford!
- Glitter Bay, Barbados
A stunning 190-bedroom hotel which is owned by a Geordie made good, Michael Pemberton from Sunderland. He went to the West Indies in 1978 and was looking for somewhere to live. He found this building owned by the Guinness family but it didn’t have access to the beach. So he bulldozed all the trees at the bottom of the garden, in came the tide, the sand was washed up and he had a beach. Then he converted it into a hotel which is the last word in luxury. It is a scene out of paradise.
- Helmsley Palace, New York
This is a mammoth tower block building with room occupancy from the 44th floor. I stayed on the 48th floor. The rooms are massive and everything is double the size of a London equivalent. I can remember doing my aerobics at 3.30am U.S. time and the telly was blasting away in 24-hour style. I huffed and puffed while looking out over Central Park with my other eye on the screen.
- Rancho Mirage Las Palmas Palm Springs
This is the hotel they use on the Dynasty set. It’s on the corner of Frank Sinatra Avenue and Bob Hope Boulevard. When I arrived at the hotel I was greeted by the assistant manageress, a woman. She welcomed me like a long-lost hero. It turned out she was from Sunderland and hadn’t seen a Geordie in 17 years! She gave me the Presidential Suite with three bathrooms and four TV sets overlooking an 18-hole golf course. All at single room rate.
- Badrutt’s Palace, St. Moritz Switzerland
This is, possibly, the best hotel in the world. There are 122 ski instructors in St. Moritz and one ski instructress and, through the hotel, I was taught by the one woman instructress. I was with my mate Derek Talbot from Newcastle and we both enjoyed learning from this delicious 22-year-old blonde. On my fifth day learning to ski we had a three-hour lunch with lots of brandy and I went out to the slopes and broke my leg. I came back in plaster.
- Orient Express
I caught this train at Venice and travelled on it to London. Sharon and I dined with an American movie producer and his opera start lady. We had a whale of a time. I emerged sleepy-eyed at Paris int eh morning to be greeted by a Japanese photographer who wanted to take my picture for a Nikon magazine. I remember I also met a Newcastle magistrate on the train. When he found out who I was, he couldn’t speak to me again!
- Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas
Once again I met a Geordie. The porter who welcomed me was from Morpeth. You cannot go anywhere without the sound and sight of slot machines. Even at breakfast they are still playing the machines. I will never forget my bedroom. It had a leopard skin bed cover, pink fluffy carpet, zebra-striped walls, a mirrored ceiling and a whirlpool bath at the bottom of the bed. It was the only place you couldn’t gamble.