In Goldfinger, James Bond, who had been jonesing for a slice of the easy life, is given his wish, for a night at least, by Mr Junius Du Pont, who is hoping that 007 can help him out with a problem. When Bond accepts, they head out to dinner.
They drew up at a white-painted, mock-Regency frontage in clapboard and stucco. A scrawl of pink neon said: BILL’S ON THE BEACH. While Bond got out, Mr Du Pont gave his instructions to the chauffeur. Bond heard the words. ‘The Aloha Suite,’ and ‘If there’s any trouble, tell Mr Fairlie to call me here. Right?’
They went up the steps. Inside, the big room was decorated in white with pink muslin swags over the windows. There were pink lights on the tables. The restaurant was crowded with sunburned people in expensive tropical get-ups . – brilliant garish shirts, jangling gold bangles, dark glasses with jewelled rims, cute native straw hats. There was a confusion of scents. The wry smell of bodies that had been all day in the sun came through.
Mr Du Pont also takes care of the ordering.
Mr Du Pont slapped his menu shut. He said to Bond, ‘Now, why don’t you just leave this to me? If there’s anything you don’t like, send it back.’ And to the head waiter, ‘Stone crabs. Not frozen. Fresh. Melted butter. Thick toast. Right?’
‘Very good, Mr Du Pont.’ The wine waiter, washing his hands, took the waiter’s place.
‘Two pints of pink champagne. The Pommery ’50. Silver tankards. Right?’
‘Vairry good, Mr Du Pont. A cocktail to start?’
Mr Du Pont turned to Bond. He smiled and raised his eyebrows.
Bond said, ‘Vodka martini, please. With a slice of lemon peel.’ ‘
Make it two,’ said Mr Du Pont. ‘Doubles.’
While they awaiting their meal, Mr Du Pont tells Bond of his problem. When the meal comes, conversation ceases.
A bustle of waiters round their table saved Bond having to think up a reply. With ceremony, a wide silver dish of crabs, big ones, their shells and claws broken, was placed in the middle of the table. A silver sauceboat brimming with melted butter and a long rack of toast was put beside each of their plates. The tankards of champagne frothed pink. Finally, with an oily smirk, the head waiter came behind their chairs and, in turn, tied round their necks long white silken bibs that reached down to the lap.
Bond was reminded of Charles Laughton playing Henry VIII, but neither Mr Du Pont nor the neighbouring diners seemed surprised at the hoggish display. Mr Du Pont, with a gleeful ‘Every man for himself, raked several hunks of crab on to his plate, doused them liberally in melted butter and dug in. Bond followed suit and proceeded to eat, or rather devour, the most delicious meal he had had in his life.
The meat of the stone crabs was the tenderest, sweetest shellfish he had ever tasted. It was perfectly set off by the dry toast and slightly burned taste of the melted butter. The champagne seemed to have the faintest scent of strawberries. It was ice cold. After each helping of crab, the champagne cleaned the palate for the next. They ate steadily and with absorption and hardly exchanged a word until the dish was cleared.
Afterwards, Bond is slightly horrified at the entire display, but then realizes he got exactly what he had been asking for just a couple of hours before.
According to multiple accounts, including the officially sanctioned James Bond: The Man and His World, the inspiration for Bill’s on the Beach was the well-known Joe’s Stone Crab on Miami Beach. Ian Fleming himself ate there, thought enough of the experience to include a version of it in Goldfinger.
Given Fleming’s fondness for name-dropping various locations, I’ve often wondered why for some places he uses the real name, while for others he creates a fictional name based on a real location. Did “Bill’s on the Beach” just sound better to him than “Joe’s Stone Crab?”
This looks pretty good to me: