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Seen in a better light

Published 14 May1995
Style Magazine
97th article

Among Michael's top 32 eating places: Zafferano in Knightsbridge, run by Giorgio Locatelli, top, who is both chef and co-owner, the Chiswick, centre; and the Belvedere, above, in Holland Park (Ance Dunhill)

I keep copies all over my house of a list of the restaurants which I regularly visit. Like all of you, I also keep copies in the Rolls, the Bentley, the Ferrari and the Mercedes Sports. Thus armed I am ready to pounce at a moment's notice to add bonhomie or problems (according to my mood) to one of my 32 chosen eating places. It is a list that is extremely conservative and seldom changes. Kensington Place was removed because the food became tired.

Recently, Zafferano has been added. This is a comfortable restaurant situated in Knightsbridge in premises that used to be Wheeler's Carafe. It is co-owned by the chef, Giorgio Locatelli, and an Italian entrepreneur named Claudio Pulze, who also has more than a hand in Aubergine, the Canteen, Ken Lo's Memories of China in Ebury Street which makes it Chinese owned by Italians Marco Pierre White's The Restaurant and maybe more. The head waiter is one of my all-time favourites, Enzo Cassini, who used to live in the exquisite medieval hill town of Eze and perform at the Chateau Eza there, but has recently moved from the south of France to Bethnal Green in order to run Zafferano.

The food I was told, as I certainly wouldn't know, is northern Italian. The lighting is care of the Kensington and Chelsea council, a yellow street lamp outside doing almost irreparable damage to any lady who sits by the window. Joan Collins cried in dismay about it when I recommended the place to her, and Shakira Caine was so distressed she wanted to leave. Nothing of course could shake the beauty of either of them, but you know how ladies are. When I last went they had acquired a blind to head off the yellow above-glow of the street light, but had failed to lower it, so it did nothing. I had a few words with Claudio and he had a few words with Enzo and the blind was discreetly brought down. Needless to say, up or down, the effect of the yellow light made no difference to my appearance, which lacks total cohesion at the best of times. I sat facing a rough brick wall with an arch filled in, which I rather liked, at a table which has recently been designated for me. There I eat, again and again, some of the best Italian food in London. Indeed none is better. Signor Locatelli manages to get real and delightful taste into everything, be it malfatti (ravioli filled with mashed baby potatoes and mint) or lamb sweetbread in sweet and sour sauce, or a saffron brioche with apples, candied fruit and ice cream.

Readers keep writing ludicrous letters saying that I never like anywhere. One recently said I offered an abusive diatribe of hate against 21 Queen Street, Newcastle, when I'd written the main course was excellent! In fact we keep a precise count in my humble office and it currently shows 89 bad reviews swamped by 187 good ones. Push that up to 188. Zafferano is definitely good.

Another restaurant with an unparalleled view of street lighting is the Chiswick, not surprisingly in Chiswick. Andrew and Madeleine Lloyd Webber asked me to join them there. Andrew had been recording nearby. After playing me part of the fantastic rock score for his new film, Whistle Down The Wind, we strolled over to view the simple-to-the-point-of-nonexistent decor at the Chiswick. But the food was tip-top. A ragout of snails with chorizo and chick peas was memorable, but the beef tortillas and Mexican relishes surprised us a bit because the slices of steak were cold and we weren't sure if they were meant to be. Nevertheless, if you're in the area, go there.

There is no better place to sit on a sunny day than the terrace of John Gold's Belvedere in Holland Park, a mere stone's throw from my modest bachelor residence. You look out over lovely flower gardens, fountains and what's left of a Jacobean house that was criminally not restored after the war and a bit of bomb damage.

John asked the wine waiter: "Do you happen to know today's dessert special?" "No," said the wine waiter, "but I know yesterday's soup special." "How do you know that?" I asked. "Because it's the same as today's," said the wine waiter before he shuffled off. It's little gems of chat with the staff like that which, genuinely, keep me cheerful.


Having eaten lunch each Sunday at L'Auberge de la Mole for many years I can tell you both Joan Collins and Michael Winner are wrong it is the best restaurant on the coast, and off the coast for that matter! Michael also failed to mention its wine list, which I can tell him is of infinitely better quality than most of those West End restaurants we so enjoy him regularly criticising. Long may la Mole remain insignificant and the Auberge stay out of the Michelin Guide!
David Mears, St Tropez

It is a pity that Michael Winner's European gastronomy forays are limited to those regions where he can be sure of topping up his suntan between meals. If he ever ventures north to the Deauville Film Festival, for example, or to the frozen wastes of Le Touquet (which was as much favoured by Victorian Brits as were Nice and Cannes) he will find some exceptional restaurants. Ciro's is on the beach at Deauville a few steps from one of Europe's most elegant casinos. The food, the service and the view are wonderful. They once made a spectacular birthday cake for a lady in my party (having been tipped off the day before) and when she didn't turn up with us for dinner, they sent the cake round to her hotel room with the compliments of the management. And since Mr Winner clearly likes frogs' legs, he could don a jumper and sample the very best cuisses de grenouille in France at the rustic yet sophisticated La Grenouillere at Montreuil, 20 minutes' drive from Le Touquet.
Simon Chapman, Wheelerend Common, Bucks

My husband and I love Michael Winner's uninhibited sense of humour! I grew up in Paris and am able to appreciate a good bistrot du quartier. The new Stratfords in Stratford Road, London W8, is our local. The proprietor, a provincial Frenchman, has redecorated the original Quai de St Pierre with great taste. The service is of the smiling French variety. Prices are unbelievable for this area. The £10 lunch is as good a value as anywhere in London.
Marie Louise Harvey, London W8