Published 11 December 1994 Style Magazine 76th article
A slice of life: Maurice Franklin (Roland Hoskins)
"We want you to star in our Birds Of A Feather Christmas special." It was Laurence Marks who, with Maurice Gran, writes that and many other very popular TV shows. "Yes?" I said with curiosity. "We want you to play yourself," said Laurence. "You can't find me a better part than that?" I asked. "We'll rewrite it for you," said Laurence obligingly, "and we'd like you to come for dinner."
Marks and Gran are a couple of north London boys who have moved out to Cotswold-gentry-land. They booked me into the Golden Pheasant, Burford, whatever that might be. An hour and a half after leaving the civilisation of Holland Park, the Ferrari edged down the car-filled hill in the quaint little town. "Oh dear," I said as the Golden Pheasant appeared on the right. It was in a terrace with a "Rooms Available" sign. "Stay in the car," I said to Vanessa. "This looks like a quick turnaround and no dinner."
But I was pleasantly surprised. A couple of open fires, charmingly olde-worlde, and a large attic-bedroom with a sitting area, massive, ancient beams, a canopied bed with a patchwork quilt and an exquisitely displayed red fire extinguisher.
We wandered out and looked at the notices in the window of the post office next door. "At the Cosy Club on Friday Col Swynnerton will show some of his slides." I wondered what was on the ones Colonel Swynnerton was holding back! A trot over the road to "Jackies Tearooms established 1870". On view, a large selection of cakes and pies. "Are these made here?" I asked the waitress. "Oh yes," she said proudly. "I'd like to meet the chef," I said. A pleasant, chubby young man called Maurice wandered out. "What's in the Mars Bar cake?" I asked. "That's a secret," said Maurice, going back to his kitchen. I took a slice of four or five others and went to my table to have them with the Earl Grey. The chocolate cake was poor. "I'd like to discuss things with Maurice," I said. He ambled out once more. "This chocolate is cake mix," I volunteered. "Yes," said Maurice, his shame uncovered, "but all the others are mine." And very excellent the rest of them were. So good I went back and got a couple of Mars Bar cakes. "What do you think's in them?" I said to Vanessa. "Rice Krispies," she said. "Get Maurice please," I said to the waitress. He appeared yet again. "Maurice," I said, "You have Rice Krispies in your Mars Bar cake!" Maurice smiled. He did not seem unduly concerned that his recipe was out and might now fall into the hands of Nico Ladenis. "And sultanas," he added, all secrecy abandoned.
That evening we went to the very posh Lovell's in Old Minster Lovell. An old farmhouse, not improved at all by a massive picture window shoved into it, overlooking the car park. The decor was suburban, chic, funny wall-plaster frames with odd paintings or repros in them, chairs from a long-gone French boudoir. But the food was first-rate. And what extraordinary value! A seven-course dinner for £27.50 ex service. Even though they did count the cheese beignets, which came in the bar with the drinks, as one of the courses. A nice bit of turbot, venison, which is usually rather difficult, done very well. And six cheeses preceded by an odd discourse from the owner's daughter, a pretty girl, in a white double-breasted blazer with gold buttons. She told us the exact order in which the cheeses should be eaten. I ignored it, of course, and went straight for the one I liked best, getting to some of the others in order of Winner-sight-appreciation.
The next day we had lunch at the Golden Pheasant; after all, the exceedingly cheerful manageress, Ivana Tommasi, had told me it would be excellent. A lovely setting, but she was not quite right about the food! Tasteless coarse venison pate, good pork, leek and apple sausages and superb mashed potatoes, followed by the worst treacle tart I have ever partly eaten. Cloying, no taste of treacle, a disaster! Still, in general it's a charming place and they're not really trying to cater for the likes of me. Come to think of it, who is?
I write to ask whether Mr Winner would do the honour of marrying me. I believe I would be of great credit to him in his profession, as I have practised waving a napkin over my head until I am quite weary in the left arm. (I am right-handed, you comprehend.) I have also had the carpenter extend my dining room table so that it is now of a size for eight, though I am but one. Although I have not seen any of his motion pictures, I am certain they are of a high standard, and I am willing to watch them. His shirt is very pretty in the picture. It looks expensive. Please send details of how rich he is. I am an ex-chorus-girl and very fetching. Should he choose to accept my offer, as I trust he will, please let Vanessa know with kindness; she appears a jolly nice girl.
My husband and I read Winner's Dinners every week and find it quite interesting, but we note that he very rarely comes north. We would like to recommend a restaurant called The French Connection, which is in Norden, Rochdale in Greater Manchester. In our opinion it is well worth a visit. The chef is only 23 years old and a very talented young man.
R Benjamin, Manchester
A group of friends and I recently had the grave misfortune to dine at Chiquito's Mexican restaurant in Islington, London. Despite using Mr Winner's techniques to improve the service (including singing Why Are We Waiting?), we found it still disgustingly slow. We had gone in for a quick meal; our main courses took more than one and a half hours to arrive. We will never eat there again.
J Stone, London N3
I write to let you know of a fantastic eastern European restaurant my husband and I discovered recently. A smallish cosy establishment in Richmond, southwest London, by the name of Kozachok. Although we didn't have any starters, the beluga blini ordered by the next table was enormous and, judging by the comments made by those patrons, I must assume it had flavour to match. My main course was Ukrainian Varenyki with potato and cheese filling, something a Polish friend used to make. Topped with crispy bacon bits and onion, these left me far too full to consider even looking at the dessert menu. My spouse had the Hetman steak with potato dumplings. He declared it gorgeous and though usually it takes three courses to fill him the large portion left him unable to move. Next time I think we'll leave the car at home and take a taxi so that we can try some of their flavoured vodkas. At only £25 including tip we will most certainly be going back.
Aldena Baranyi, London W4