Published 24 April 1994 Style Magazine 43rd article
One of the great things about this newspaper under its present, excellent management is its fair-mindedness in permitting those attacked in its columns to reply. Thus we were treated last week to six of the silliest letters I have ever read, all from people who do not know food from cardboard, defending the awfulness of the Conservatory at the Lanesborough Hotel.
The writings of a Mr Geoffrey Gelardi, the Lanesborough's managing director, explain a great deal about its present problems. In order of inaccuracy, Mr Gelardi writes that I criticised everything except my "long-standing friend John Davey". Mr Davey, their restaurant manager, has served me four times in two restaurants before doing so at The Lanesborough. I have never set eyes on him outside of those occasions. This is a new definition of "long-standing friendship"! It implies, unfairly, some sort of nepotism toward him. Also, I gave a glowing report of the qualities of the dining room itself, I just hated the food.
Then Mr Gelardi takes me to task for referring to the ghastly gas imitation coal fire in his lobby, unlike the nice, real fire at Claridge's. He writes that obviously I know nothing about the "environmental pollution restraints in the area" and therefore my culinary knowledge is equally suspect. Mr Gelardi apparently possesses the quaint belief that a magical line exists between his hotel and Claridge's a mile away. On one side of that line you can burn real fuel, but on his side you cannot! I hate to educate him on a Sunday, but this is piffle! I checked with the Environmental Protection Division of Westminster Council (your area, Mr Gelardi) and they confirm it is perfectly okay to burn smokeless or other approved fuel at The Lanesborough, just as it is everywhere else in London.
Another nonsense in Mr Gelardi's letter is when he criticises me for ordering a Chateau Lafite '61 with kedgeree (which was too nasty to eat, anyway) when he should be delighted I spent so much. Personally I don't think any snotty hotelier should tell us what to eat or drink. In this case Mr Gelardi is well off-key, because the senior guest at the table was the redoubtable Mrs Hylda Gilbert, and out of deference to her having roast beef we chose red wine. That is called being gentlemanly and courteous to one's guests!
As for the silly crack about The Sunday Times becoming as successful as my films: shortly thereafter I opened letters with four profit cheques from Hollywood!
Anyway, enough of poor food and wobbly management and on to things that are nice. I had a marvellous meal at Marco Pierre White's The Restaurant at The Hyde Park Hotel. Perhaps a pointer here for The Lanesborough to get a super-chef in. The millefeuille of crab and tomatoes with sauce gazpacho was a wonder! The braised pigs trotter jovially tasty and the dessert to die for. All without Marco in the kitchen, because he'd been stuck behind an upturned lorry on the A1 and only arrived for coffee and gossip.
It was as excellent as ever at Bibendum where Simon Hopkinson's ham hock with turnip puree and spinach salad was one of the best starters I've ever had. And what a nice waffle at Fortnum's! Not as good as Gary does at the Beverly Hills Coffee shop, but then his are the best in the world by far. But lovely maple syrup and the slightly thicker-than-usual waffle gave me no pain at all. I also had a very good fish pie at Wiltons, a most pleasing lunch at Daphne's, and even bravely ventured West into Ealing. There in Grove Gallery (in The Grove) they serve real Polish stuff. Good Polish pastries including faworki made with vodka, egg and flour, as well as borsht and blinis with sour cream and herring or smoked salmon. Maybe they should transport the owners, Jan and Malgosia Martynowicz, to The Lanesborough. They'd jolly the place up no end.
I am writing to express my agreement with Michael Winner's comments on The Lanesborough Hotel. The Lanesborough attempts to exude an atmosphere of old-time opulence, which its kitchen fails to support. My recent meal was tepid, the vegetables over-cooked and the general appearance of the plate served was most unappetising. The Lanesborough should really try to do better.
M Selinger, London NW11
In the light of Michael Winner's recent article about the Lanesborough Hotel, I thought I would write and tell your readers about my experience there in January of last year. I organised a breakfast for a group of friends, a few days before my wedding, and was told by the banqueting department that I should devise a menu beforehand, in order to save time. Forty-five minutes after my guests had arrived our breakfast was yet to appear on our table. There seemed to be an abundant shortage of kippers, but perhaps this was just the time of year! I also let it be known that one of my guests would be in a wheelchair and that our table should be situated with easy access. When I arrived I found that we had been placed up on a platform, which meant that my guest had to be carried to the table. Like Mr Winner, I too was offered a free meal, but I am yet to take it up.
Aron M Freedman, London NW3
Recently I had the misfortune of choosing the Soho Brasserie in W1 for a working lunch with one of LWT's star presenters and his producer. From start to finish the meal was a disaster. Our order could not have been simpler. The service could not have been slower or less helpful. We arrived at 1pm and ordered soup and salad. The soup came fairly quickly. Two of our main-course salads then took 45 minutes to arrive, and that was only after many inquiries to the staff who offered no explanation, except repeatedly telling us that they were "on the way". The third salad a green salad turned up so much later that I told the waitress not to bother and to bring the bill instead. By then it was 2.15pm. Not only was this a disgrace, it was embarrassing. What should have been a pleasant working lunch turned into a shambles. It surprised me that no effort was made either to apologise, or to make up for our poor experience. To add insult to injury, our waitress then said she did not blame us for omitting to add service to our bill.
Janice Boxrup, London W1