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Winner's dinners

Published 22 August 1993
Style Magazine
9th article

There is something slightly bizarre about two of Britain's most explosive chefs being attached to staid Forte Hotels. It is a marriage made in heaven. Nico Ladenis serves some of the best food in London adjacent to the Grosvenor House.

Nico has forgiven me for bombarding him with solicitor's letters many years ago when, before he was in catering, he lived with his mother-in-law above me in Cornwall Gardens. I was trying to stop his daughter's pram obstructing our communal hall.

His daughter, now grown up and lovely, is his receptionist. Her mother is the maitre-d. Surprisingly, they welcome me most graciously when I turn up.

The present enfant terrible, Marco Pierre White, is to open in the Hyde Park Hotel on September 14. He has quietly closed Harvey's, his two-star former Michelin restaurant in Wandsworth, and is to be reborn in grand surroundings overlooking Knightsbridge, with room for 70 diners instead of 40. In preparation, he has doubled his staff.

I have a "pram" connection with Marco, too. His protege, Stephen Foster, the brilliant 26-year-old chef at The Canteen, was reared in a pram my father bought for him when his mother was my father's secretary.

I have no doubt that Marco will acquit himself valiantly in his move east.

Fay Maschler, unlike me a real food critic, wrote a nice letter suggesting that we dine together, after supporting many of my views in her column. I shall ask her to join me at Marco's opening.

The sight of the two of us would terrify most restaurant owners. Marco, I know, will not mind at all.


We poor northerners are clearly missing out on the London restaurant scene. My husband and I feel so strongly about this that we are opening our home to discerning guests. We plan to serve four-course dinners (pizza and egg on the menu, Mr Winner). I shall wait on tables in a surly manner, while my husband abuses diners and stomps around the kitchen, shouting and swearing at everybody. The dogs will be allowed to roam free throughout the building. All this for a mere £60 a head (service not included). Finally, if anyone dares to produce a Restaurant Watch sign, they know what they can do with it.
F M Platts, Newport, Salop

Having read the article by Robert Stephens at San Lorenzo, it amazed me to see that there was a "four week queue" at Quaglino's, and a hunger in similar venues for ambience rather than value per capita. Nevertheless, it must be satisfying indeed to give such high marks for a splendid meal, excellent service, and so on. But when I saw that the bill came to £125 for two, with service not included, I think I would have insisted on eating one of the waiters for added value.
Sydney Waissel, Bushey Heath, Herts

Having read Restaurant Watch over the past few weeks, I am still unable to understand your underlying philosophy. To my way of thinking, £70 per head for lunch will be looked on by the majority of your readers as fantasy, and even to the people who can afford it as a rip-off. Today, people want good food at realistic prices, and an increasing number of restaurants with top chefs have realised this. So why not stop giving free publicity to such high-priced establishments? What about a few articles on real value for money, meals which can be bought for £30 a head?
Peter A Smith, Regford, Notts