I know you don’t feel sorry for folk in showbiz. I don’t blame you; doubtless we all seem pampered and spoilt. But I felt sorry for myself by the time we wrapped the fourth season
of The Royals, which filmed over the entire summer. Five months of 15-hour days, with weekends spent learning hefty chunks of dialogue and eyeing other people’s sun-drenched Instagram accounts, take it out of a girl. Thus, as the trees started to blaze with autumn colour, I decided I couldn’t stand my pasty face a moment longer. I reached for my Amex and answered the siren call of the Maldives.
Full disclosure: I love, dream of, and could probably live quite happily in the Maldives. I have been many times and intend to go many more. The agonising decision is which resort to go to. I’ve been to some crackers, and new ones pop up all the time. They all have white beaches, turquoise waters and swaying palm trees, but each has a very different personality; some are more tranquil than others, some have cuisine kissed by angels and some have the swankiest rooms known to man. I’ve experienced all these options and more.
This time I decided to revisit one of my original favourites, the legendary Reethi Rah. Part of the One Only Resorts group, it’s beloved of celebrities, media moguls and wealthy fat cats, is booked solid for the Christmas and New Year period a year in advance and, controversially, is the thinly disguised model for the scurrilous novel Beach Babylon (in which, bizarrely, I feature, but fortunately in a flattering light, so no need to call in Keith Schilling).
In Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, Uncle Matthew claimed to have read only one book, White Fang, which was so good he never bothered to read another. I get it and feel so comforted to always order exactly the same food in all my favourite restaurants (Scott’s: dressed crab and a bloody rib-eye; 5 Hertford Street: veal milanese), and nothing pleases me more than to go back to places in which I’ve been happy.
I did the first shoot for the Elizabeth Hurley Beach range on the luscious sands of Reethi Rah many moons ago and kept going back; fantastic Easter and New Year breaks, giddy romantic escapes and fun-filled family holidays – all of which have given me precious memories to keep me warm in my dotage. This time it was just me and my teenage son, which meant the most relaxing vacation. No high heels and no hair dryer. Just sun, snorkelling, sleeping, reading and, oh yes, eating. We’re food-obsessed and when we’re not eating, we’re planning what to eat next.
I get fed up with the menu if I stay more than a few days in a resort which sports only one restaurant. One of Reethi Rah’s strongest calling cards is its variety of eating spots, all delicious and with impeccable service. The vast breakfast buffet is a glutton’s delight; mounds of pastries, full English, cheeses, meats, dim sum, fruits, juices, mezze and a special Kids Corner – truly mind-blowing.
We loved the sexy dinners at the Japanese Tapasake, the Arabian Fanditha and the organic Botanica. Long lunches were usually taken at the beach club, which is a people-watching paradise full of glamorous guests with impeccably behaved children. The beach has four-poster b draped with billowing white muslin, and there’s an art studio and an ice cream and sweetie shop. On many evenings they have sumptuous themed buffets, and if I stayed a month you’d have to heave me into the plane home with a fork lift.
Reethi Rah is pricey and the checking-out bills are not for the faint-hearted. Certain guests come up with crafty ways to cut down on their food bills – there’s the usual sneaking of the inclusive breakfast into beach bags for lunchtime nibbling – but my favourite ingenious pair apparently filled their bathtub with tasty, hand-caught crabs, which they furtively cooked on the beach.
The rich are different. One royal chap, from distant shores, spent millions booking out the entire resort for a private stay; lavish preparations ensued, including installing a gold lavatory for the exclusive use of the imperial bottom. At the last minute he decided not to come. Ker-ching! The staff got an unexpected ten days off, during which they dined extremely well on all the pre-ordered delicacies.
Reethi Rah gets my vote for being the best all-round Maldivian resort. Other resorts may have the edge on certain aspects, but no one ticks every box like this one. It’s great for couples but superb for families. There’s no need to bring your own childcare as the Kids Club is phenomenal, full of skilled staff and heaps of things to do. At Reethi Rah you can be jolly and join in the fun or keep to your villa and private pool and see virtually no one. And perhaps, if you beg, maybe you could even get that as yet unsullied gold lavatory installed in your own bathroom.