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It's the real thing

Published 2 July 1995
Style Magazine
104th article

Star of the East: Mimi Siow (George Jaworskij)

And now a parable, a true one. One evening Michael went on a journey. He travelled north to appear on television with the great sage David Frost. As Michael took a route he had never tried before, he got there early. But now he was gripped by a strange and unusual desire. He greatly wanted a Coca-Cola with a lot of ice in it and a slice of lemon.

"Drive on," said Michael as the studio appeared on the right, and the driver obeyed. A few seconds later Michael came to a little road with some shops and restaurants and, opposite, a garage. It was called Wembley Park Drive.

Seeing ahead a brightly lit window, Michael said to the driver: "Stop, for I shall enter." And he got out of the Rolls and walked into the Spice of India tandoori restaurant. It was empty but for two people eating, so Michael walked up to the little counter with bottles and glasses behind it and said to the man in charge: "Can I have a Coca-Cola, please?"

"No," said the waiter.

"I'll pay for it," said Michael, proudly feeling in his pocket the new £20 note he had borrowed specially for this occasion from his chauffeur. "We're not licensed to sell drink without food," said the waiter in a surly manner.

"But you don't need a licence to sell soft drinks," persisted Michael in disbelief. The waiter didn't actually say "Go away", but that was his attitude. So Michael left, dejected.

Next door was another Indian restaurant named Duck Two. There were more people inside. Michael thought: "This will be friendly." He walked up to a similar counter with bottles and glasses, he asked the same question: "Could I please have a Coca-Cola?"

"No," said the waiter with even more intractable gloom. "But. . ." pleaded Michael, "I'll pay whatever you like." "I'm busy," said the waiter. Thus Michael wandered again into the darkness of the street, shamed and humiliated. His chauffeur looked at him in pity. Some way down, Michael saw only one other lit window. Wearily he walked toward it. With trepidation he entered.

There was yet another counter, behind it a Chinese gentleman and standing by it a Chinese lady. "Can I have a Coca-Cola, please?" asked Michael fearfully. The man behind the bar looked to the little Chinese lady. She nodded. "Of course you can," she said. And she smiled a lovely and welcoming smile. A nice, tall glass, lots of ice, a slice of lemon. Michael offered his £20 note. "Take whatever you like," he said. The man behind the bar looked uncertain. "He doesn't have change," thought Michael.

The lady beamed. "There's nothing to pay," she said. "You have it." Michael was deeply moved. He thanked the lady, and they walked round her floodlit pictures showing the Great Wall and Peking Summer Palace and many other faraway places. The lady gave Michael a card with her name engraved on it in gold; it was Mimi Siow. She was in charge, she said, and her husband was a doctor who "comes here to eat". She was warm, she was sweet, she was charming, she was such a good hostess that Michael had a second Coca-Cola.

Then, as Michael is naturally suspicious, he said: "Do you read The Sunday Times?" "Yes," said Mimi. "Do you read Winner's Dinners?" "No," said Mimi (and Michael believed her). "But a few weeks ago The Sunday Times said they eat human flesh in China. It's not true!"

Mimi had heavy glasses and a smile Michael will remember for a long time. Rather aptly, the name of her establishment is The Bright Rising Star restaurant. If you're in Wembley, go there. Mimi deserves it.

There is no better restaurant in London than Bibendum in the Fulham Road. It is superb. It always has been, and even though the originator-chef, Simon Hopkinson, has left, and his personally trained number two, Matthew Harris, is in charge of the kitchen, it remains unchanged in its particular quality.

But a rare, heavy, rap on the knuckles for all of you. You served my guest Joan Collins very - and I mean very - off caviare the last time I was in. It had obviously been opened and kept. Say "We must not do that" 50 times and then you are forgiven. And for me (or any Scorpio) to forgive is rare indeed!