Published 26 November 1995 Style Magazine 125th article
Sandwiched: Ronnie Oddi, Frank Cura, Michael Winner, Paul Cura (Michael Guest)
My dad's office was a period house in Addison Bridge Place, a small cul-dc-sac south of the railway bridge that leads you to Olympia. On the corner was Frank's Sandwich Bar, run, not unsurprisingly, by Frank, second name Cura, together with his son Frank Jr and a thin man with brilliantined black, sleek hair, Ronnie Oddi. Opposite was a small garage where clad bought my first car, a black Austin A35 with bright red seats. I have not been back to that spot since - oh, probably 1960. It's quite near my house, so I recently walked there for lunch to see if Frank's was still very good, it used to be the original ticket entrance to Olympia station. It's still very 1950s. A few cracks have appeared in the large painted sign outside. They've added a couple of white plastic tables with matching chairs; otherwise it remains a time warp. I ordered a bacon, egg and sausage toasted sandwich from a young man who turned out to be Frank Jr's son Paul. Frank Sr has passed away, so Frank Jr is now called Frank and he's still there, and the thin, sleek black-haired chap, Ronnie Oddi, is still there, too, only he's put on a bit of weight, lost most of his hair and what remains isn't black.
But the sandwich was terrific. So were the accompanying cups of tea, served in nice china cups with saucers and proper spoons. The place was packed with regulars who obviously know a good thing when they eat it. Many of them taxi drivers, which I always take as a good sign. Dad always used to have a creamcheese sandwich brought to his office, and his building foreman, Charlie Brookman, would drop in and chat for hours. The garage my first car came from is now called Boot Tree Ltd and looks very posh. Frank's Sandwich Bar is the sort of place most people pass by. But if you're at Olympia, or just feel like dropping in, I think you'll find it excellent of its kind. It was nice to be back.
I am no fan of the Four Seasons hotel group. My reasoned dislike is based on what they did to my ex-favourite hotel, the Pierre in New York. This was a masterpiece of old-money style and management, run - I give them full credit - by Forte. Some years ago the Four Seasons lot took it over. I phoned a while back, not having been there much, although I used practically to live in it. A brusque, unwelcoming lady took the reservation. "Can I have my usual suite?" I asked. A pause. "We have no record of you." she said. "But I've stayed there regularly since 1967!" I said. "Well, you haven't stayed here for the past three years. We throw away our records after three years," was the reply. Unbelievable! They didn't know the fortune I'd spent there! That I booked in dear Sophia (Loren) and lovely Charlie (Bronson) and even old-time Victor (Mature)! They knew nothing! I was a non-person.
The visit was the worst time I've ever had at a hotel. All elegance had vanished, I got the wrong suite, the service had gone to pot, the front-desk staff were icy and arrogant, even the toast was inedible! A camp bed appeared in my room for no reason at all one night! I composed a terrific letter in my mind to their chairman in Canada, but sadly never sent it. I'll never stay there again and the view of those I respect is that the Pierre is lost for ever.
Recently I drove up for lunch to the Four Seasons in London - and waited while the doorman spoke endlessly to a policeman. And spoke. And spoke. "I shall just stay here," I said to Vanessa. "He must notice sooner or later that I'm blocking up the entire driveway in and out." "Perhaps he's not a doorman," said Vanessa. "He's dressed as one," I replied. "Even though I agree he's not acting like one."
Eventually the lethargic chat with the young man in blue stopped and the doorman, now all charm, came over. I've never actually seen them park cars at the Four Seasons, but I'd made a decision to leave the Bentley regardless and just walk away. Which I did. Although I must report the now very polite doorman said he'd definitely see to it. Thus I entered one of the ugliest of hotels. Through the lobby and up the stairs, The Four Seasons restaurant, which had never had the pleasure of my eating there, loomed into view. I shall tell you what happened next week!