Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Keith Floyd's Last Gourmet Meal

Keith Floyd once said if he were to die tomorrow, he’d choose oysters for his last meal. And as it turned out, he did.

The legendary TV cook’s last gourmet feast represented everything he loved about food – seasonal, local and above all simple.

Heart problems, a series of operations for bowel cancer, and a general falling out of love with food in recent months had left him pushing morsels around his plate in restaurants.

But as he tucked into his last lunch - a £120 three-course meal at celebrity chef Mark Hix’s restaurant in Lyme Regis, Dorset – he said he hadn’t felt better for months.

It was the Floyd of old – not the frail-looking shadow seen in last night’s documentary Keith Meets Keith. He was chatting with the diners, and savouring every mouthful of food.

He had taken his partner Celia Martin to Hix Oyster and Fish House to celebrate her 65th birthday.

They began with a champagne cocktail on the sun terrace overlooking the harbour. Then followed a glass of white Burgundy before they moved indoors to the best table in the house for a plate of oysters and potted Morecambe Bay shrimps.

For the main, they shared a bottle of Cotes de Rhone red. Floyd had ordered grouse, but the kitchen sent him partridge and bread sauce by mistake. But nothing was going to spoil his good mood that day, and he tucked in just the same.

“The sun was shining on the terrace, it was a glorious day. He was lovely – he spoke to a few of the other customers in the restaurant – he was charming,” Jonathan Jeffrey, general manager of the restaurant, told Chef Sandwich.

“He had a drink outside then he moved in to have his lunch, he got here about 1.30pm and left about 3.30pm or 4pm. He was out with Celia – it was her birthday, and they were having a laugh together."

Floyd finished the meal with apple pie and perry jelly, and several cigarettes and a coffee on the terrace.

He asked to see Hix, but when told he wasn't there, he left him an invitation to the launch of his autobiography at Marco Pierre White's Knightsbridge restaurant Frankies on October 6, which will now go ahead as a celebration of Floyd's life.

Floyd and Celia went home for a siesta to her nearby house in Bridport, where the cook had been living for the past three weeks to start chemotherapy for bowel cancer.

He was looking forward to watching his interview with Keith Allen at 10pm that night, but died in his sleep before the programme started.

Celia said: "It was my 65th birthday yesterday and we started off by going to see the specialist to do with his cancer. He had some very good news and he was very optimistic of his chances of beating it.

"We then went to have a pub lunch in Lyme Regis. He said 'I have not felt this well for ages'. He had a very good last day."

The couple watched University Challenge while waiting for Keith Meets Keith to begin. Celia said: "He had already seen the TV programme because they had sent us the DVD. He liked it very much, he thought it was so brilliantly made and so truthful. He said it was an award-winning programme.

"He laid down on the sofa and I thought he went to sleep. Then suddenly his breathing became erratic.”

Celia dialled 999 and put him in the recovery position on the floor. Paramedics spent nearly an hour trying to revive Floyd.

She added: "It was so bizarre, we were sitting down to watch the documentary at 10pm but by that time he had died. It is all a bit of a shock.

"He was feeling so much stronger since he had been in Bridport. We were going out every day, either shopping or to the pub or play boules on the beach. He was not drinking a lot, he had really given up drinking, but he was smoking too much.

"I'm still in shock, I feel like he is still here and I cannot get to grips with it. There is still his cigarette ash around the place and his clothes are still in the washing basket. I'm expecting him to get out of bed any minute.”

Mr Jeffery added: “I feel very privileged because I had a chat with him on the terrace before he left. His programmes were what got me into cooking.

“He made cooking acceptable, he was the one who led the way, he was absolutely amazing. I think it’s really sad, it’s terrible.”


Saul said...

I'm glad he did it his way. That was how he was after all.

Lennie Nash said...

Very true Saul. I'm glad he went out this way too, only fitting for a man of his talent and passion. Hospital food would have been a sad way to go.


Melinda said...

So sad that he would not make a recovery but wonderful he had such a fitting last day.
Thank you for this beautifully written post, Lennie.

simon said...

I'm down here in Bridport - many in the town got to know him over the last few months. A sad loss.

AD said...

I'm so sad he's no longer with us,such a great loss it will be difficult to read his biography when it comes out next month.I will still buy a copy though.
Does anyone know about funeral arrangements at all?
Keith Floyd God bless you R.I.P.

Di said...

I loved the man. A true inspiration to the very end with such an appropriate demise. AA Gill is a tosser!