The Passing of Sir Nicholas Montlake

It is my sad duty as the King of Redonda to mark the passing of one of Antigua’s more colourful characters. Nicholas Montlake has died here in the UK
Nick was one of Antigua’s characters who involved himself in many aspects of the community and was well known for his piano playing skills.
One of his ventures was Playbach’s Bar opposite Falmouth Marina and home to the Royal Redondan Yacht Club of which Nick was a one time Commodore.
Nick was also knighted by the then King of Redonda, my predecessor Bob the Bald.  Typical of Nick, he used his title of Sir Nicholas Montlake to get upgraded on flights between Antigua and the U.K.
Nick was also famed for his restaurant, HQ2, in the Officers’ Quarters in Nelson’s Dockyard which he sold before moving to the U.K..
Before Antigua and as a fluent French speaker, Nick had run bars and restaurants in alpine ski resorts where he was an avid skier.
Continuing the catering tradition, on his return to the U.K., Nick, with partner Erick Chobert, acquired a licence of the Queen’s public house in Selbourne near Alton, Hampshire.
In May this year Nick and Erick converted a barn at the pub into a deli restaurant, which rapidly became an outstanding success.
Nick was an Associate Member of the Tot Club in Antigua, a strong supporter of causes such as ABSAR (Antigua Barbuda Search &Rescue), the RNLI, Operation Smile, saving the dolphins and opposing dog fighting which still occurs in Antigua.
Nick will be missed by all those who knew him.
Michael the Grey
Redonda Rex

One comment

  1. I have only just found this notice, and feel the need to expand on it.

    Nick arrived here in Selborne in early 2011, with the seemingly quixotic notion of creating a stylish and cosmopolitan out of a neglected village pub which had suffered from years of under-investment. We had rather resigned ourselves to the Queens being boarded up into eternity, that being the fate of so many such businesses in the face of punitive taxation, pub-company greed and the recession.

    The Queens reopened bang on schedule in April 2011, and Nick and Erick ensured that it really was soon on the map as a venue that people would travel 25 miles to visit. The bar was bright and welcoming, the dining-room oozed sophistication (with Nick’s grand piano at the entrance) and the bedrooms were luxurious. The experience gained in Antigua ensured that the staff, however callow, were superbly trained, always encouraged and unfailing attentive.

    They really had made a silk purse of a sow’s ear. Both Nick and Erick threw themselves into village life, and it became hard to recall the days before they had arrived. They hosted spectacular events, not least a Diamond Jubilee dinner that was an outstanding success.

    I visited Antigua, for the second time, last summer, renting a house from Erick’s uncle. We met some of their coutless friends, and also flew over Redonda when visiting Montserrat!

    Last year’s wretched summer made trading immensely difficult for the Queens, as the inability to use the garden as a dining area knocked a large hole in the profitability. I suspect that the stress contributed to Nick’s ultimately fatal illness. He bore it with dignity and stoicism, however, and was still meeting and greeting in the bar 4 days before his death, despite looking like a wraith.

    When it became clear that a swift death was inevitable, Nick proposed to Erick. Although the authorities moved quickly to complete the necessary legal formalities for their civil partnership, he passed away early on the very morning that the paperwork was due to have been signed off. He was, nevertheless, surrounded by his family as he slipped his moorings on that final voyage.

    It is a testament to Nick (and to the popularity he achieved so quickly here) that, following his private Jewish funeral, we held a memorial service a few days later in the village church, just before Christmas. I have rarely seen such an occasion so well attended. It was ‘standing room only’, and he was given a rousing send-off.

    Fulsome eulogies were given by one of Nick’s brothers and by one of his many village friends. Between them, they bracketed his life. Many of his favourite piano tunes were played. Despite his brief tenure of the Queens, we had all lost someone immensely special.

    Erick is continuing as the sole proprietor of the Queens, holding to the promise he made to Nick. It was astonishing that he ‘did’ the Christmas and New Year season while shouldering his grief. He’s doing fine now. I have no doubt that he would welcome any Antigua friends who might look in. It’s rather special and worth a detour.

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