The Lords Of The Manor: Michael Winner in Gloucestershire (Sarah Alexander)
After the excitement of Sir Clement Freud's 70th birthday party on the train to Worcester race course last weekend and thereafter at the races, where I lost a few hundred pounds, I repaired in my own car to The Lords Of The Manor in Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire, leaving the other guests, becoming increasingly merry, to go back to Paddington.
The hotel is a 17th-century rectory with endless additions, in Cotswold stone and done up inside in an acceptably twee style, in which chintz figures heavily. Not only were the curtains chintz and the modern brass four-poster bed heavy with chintz, but the bath had a chintz pelmet on top and a chintz curtain at one side. I wondered if you could curtain yourself off while bathing, but it appeared the chintz there was purely decorative.
One window overlooked the wondrous sight of English countryside, rolling hills and a lake, the other had an uninterrupted view of my Ferrari. I have been waiting years for a TV or print journalist to ask me, "What was your greatest mistake in life?" to which I would reply, "Buying a Ferrari." But nobody's asked me.
The restaurant at "Lords Of..." gets one star in the Michelin, but nothing in the Ronay. It's somewhere between the two. The room is pleasant and inhabited by young French waiters talking in an accent so thick I could hardly understand them. But they're ever so chic and far be it from me to complain. My soupe de poisson was surprisingly good for land-locked Gloucestershire and would have been better if I'd dared add the garlic, but for the sake of my guest Sarah, a beautiful and posh English actress, I did not. I had first heard of Sarah being ever-so-good at the Edinburgh Festival, when she played the lead in A Peasant Of El Salvador. Since then she's done a mass of TV and starred in two films, so I was absolutely on my best behaviour, which for me is not at all easy. In fact, I was trying so hard to behave I didn't even notice what she ate for a starter.
But we both greatly enjoyed the freebie pre-starter. It was parfait of foie gras infused with lemon thyme, buttered brioche and an apple and grape cardamom chutney! My main course was assiette of pork, which suffered by comparison to a similar dish I ate recently at Marco Pierre White's, but you can't expect Marco to be in the Cotswolds as well, can you? Sarah thought her cod baked with mustard with tagliatelle and basil sauce okay, but not more.
For dessert, I ordered one orange sorbet between us. It came, surprisingly, on an unbelievably delicious rich chocolate slice. So we ate it anyway.
The next day, breakfast was a bit of a hoot. I asked for fresh orange juice. "Is it squeezed by human hand from oranges here on the premises?" I enquired. The waiter reeled a bit, and said defensively, "It can be." Another waiter then brought the menu, which announced "A choice of freshly squeezed orange, apple and grapefruit juice". "Ah," I said to Sarah, "I bet they're not doing fresh orange juice for everyone." Surely enough, when ours came it was of a completely different colour and texture to everyone else's! The menu said "Oak smoked kippers and haddock", so I ordered them. A few moments later the waiter came back and said, "No kippers." But it was a pleasant meal anyway and so was dinner, and the staff were exceptional. All in all, it's a smashing place.
Then we drove to the Waterside Inn at Bray for Nico Ladenis's select luncheon party to celebrate his 60th birthday. There a marvellous, unbelievably French Frenchman, with moustache, of course, named Alain Lhermitte (he owns Mon Plaisir) told very funny restaurant stories and ended each phrase with a guttural "Haaw-haaw". I'd only ever heard Maurice Chevalier do that. To find it was a genuine French habit was a revelation. The food was also double-historic. As good a meal from the Roux kitchen as I have ever eaten anywhere. A pretty good weekend, really.
At last, Michael Winner ends his column with a list of accolades. Congratulations to all those who wrote in response to his attack on the Lanesborough. I have yet to experience this establishment, and therefore cannot comment, but I beg everyone to keep writing in and maybe we will get less poison and more praise; I find it infinitely more useful to know where to eat rather than where not to.
Neil A Stevens, London NW3
I had an inexpensive lunch yesterday at The Fire Station near Waterloo Station, where I enjoyed an outstanding salade nicoise. They used fresh, extremely succulent tuna, tiny, sweet olives, fresh and tasty anchovies, and perfectly boiled eggs and crunchy haricot beans. Several types of interesting breads are brought without request to the table, and the staff are keen, quick and quite obviously proud of the place. I eat there often and have always been delighted by their imagination and flair. They change their small menu daily, and it is always delicious.
Janice Broxup, London SE1
A recent meal at Quaglino's was the least memorable meal I have ever had. I was given a table looking at the lavatories. When I asked to be moved, the waitress was rude and took 10 minutes to concede to our request. Our next table was right by the kitchen. Other than our steak, all the food was cold. On relating our story to a woman manager, all we received was a look of astonishment. As a lover of good food and wine, I feel very disappointed indeed.
Corinne Coleman, London NW6
I reserved a table for four at Le Chateau at the Mayfair Hotel last week. The service was exemplary, and the food superb. We ordered dover sole and enjoyed watching three waiters doing their bit, taking the sole off the bone, and serving the accompanying sauce as if it were a work of art. A selection of cheeses did not disappoint, and the desserts were absolutely delicious. Piping hot coffee and petit fours followed our meal, and we all enjoyed the food and ambience so much that we did not leave the restaurant until 1am. The £35-£40 per head it cost represented a wonderful night out for us all.
Sydney Waissel, Bushey Heath, Herts
Your corresponent, Aron M Freedman, referred to his wheelchair guest at the Lanesborough Hotel. His experience is commonplace for chairbound people. Publications for the disabled often say that wheelchair access is okay, but this information is usually supplied by the restaurant, not a wheelchair user. They don't mention the hassle manoeuvring into the restaurant and to a suitable table. Celebrating an occasion can turn into a disaster.
Leon Simons, London NW7