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Winner's Dinners

Published 5 September 1993
Style Magazine
11th article

The first few seconds after you enter a restaurant set the tone for what is to come. Are you reassured by a gracious and charming welcome? Not often. The posher the place the more distanced the staff seem to be from a smile. The worst welcome I had was at the Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor restaurant, where two Sloane bimbos with a charm lobotomy guarded the entrance desk. I fled without even going to my table.

I once arrived at Tramp with Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon, and announced myself to the gauleiter-girls at the desk. "Michael Winner," I said. "He's not here," said a girl, turning to more important matters. Once inside, the master, John Gold, and his superb disco-basement team made up for everything.

At the Connaught last week, I was again struck by the considerable warmth of the staff at what you might think would be a stuffy establishment. My host in the panelled dining room was Lee Katz, who had been the first assistant director on Casablanca. The food was tip-top, but the grouse, beautifully cooked, was a bit scrawny and the bread sauce watery.

Strangely enough, the most efficient and welcoming people I have found of late have been at Planet Hollywood. The waiters are dressed like Grunge hitchhikers, but they're good at the job and even give the appearance of enjoying it. The canapes are remarkable and when they recently laid on a three-course dinner for me for the Directors Guild, the food was better than at most functions. The only thing that depresses me about the place is the film memorabilia. It reminds me of all the stuff I've thrown away after shooting that would now be worth a small fortune.


Carolyn Levy's letter (August 29) about an evening at my restaurant ignores the facts, which are:
1 A party of 16 was booked for dinner in the private room, after a larger section of the restaurant was previously offered. It was made clear that the section of the restaurant being reserved would only hold 16.
2 They arrived from 7.45pm and enjoyed their pre-dinner drinks. By 9.15pm the numbers had swollen to 23.
3 The whole restaurant was full by the time they decided to eat, when they demanded seats for the extra people.
4 This is not a large restaurant, and when space simply couldn’t be made, Ms Levy and her friends behaved very unreasonably. In my experience, rudeness is more often found in a certain kind of customer than in the owners of restaurants. This was one such experience.

Gino Taddei, Cibo Restaurant