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Restaurant review

Le Relais de Venise 1/10

Telephone 020-7486 0878.
Address 120 Marylebone Lane,
London W1.
Open Lunch, Mon-Sat,
noon-2.30pm; dinner, all week,
6-10.45pm (10.30pm Sun).
Price £30-plus, inc drinks and service

My task was to put together that year’s novelty hit, the pet rock. I’d take a large pebble, and stick it in a box with some straw and an instruction manual. The pet rock hit a retailing nerve that yule, and we sold hundreds of them at about a fiver a pop… a fair whack at a time when you could buy the Ritz, six intercontinental ballistic missiles and much of Venezuela with £20, and still have change for a cab home.

Had anyone come up to me in the past three decades and asked, “What is the most fiendishly clever rip-off in British commercial history?” I’d have snapped back, “Ah, that would be the pet rock.” But no longer: yesterday, a friend and I met an instance of chutzpah to make the pet rock seem a philanthropic gesture worthy of Lord Shaftesbury himself.

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Boath House, Auldearn, Nairn

It’s a relief to know that in an age when hotel chains are expanding as quickly as a politician’s waistline, that there is still the odd bolthole for people who don’t actually like hotels. Boath House, just a short drive from Inverness, is just such a place. Its seriously grand appearance – it’s a curvaceous Georgian house built in 1825 for a fortunate family by the name of Dunbar – belies a warm, relaxed interior of utterly manageable and homely proportions. No reception, no checking in and no fuss.

“We had very young children at the time, so we wanted to create somewhere relaxing so that people wouldn’t feel awkward turning up with children,” says owner Wendy Matheson, who bought Boath House with her husband Don in the mid-90s.

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