Published 26 May 1996 Style Magazine 151st article
A friend in need: Orenthal J Simpson with Vanessa Perry and Michael Winner in London (Thomas Gleason)
I had a good friend from America over recently. Orenthal James Simpson. He used to play football. He arrived on a Saturday, thank goodness having rested. There's nothing more boring than entertaining half-asleep, jet-lagged Americans. I decided to take Orenthal and Tom, his minder, to Bibendum which once received the worst restaurant review I ever gave when they let me down. They took it on the chin. I have been back many times and it remains one of my all-time favourite places.
We'd had some 1985 Krug at my house and when we got to the restaurant. Orenthal ordered steak. "Is it English beef?" he asked belatedly. Told it was, he looked worried but carried on. I had herring with sour cream followed by fish and chips. Orenthal liked his steak, but it became difficult to get the poor chap any mustard. Requests were endlessly unanswered. When I get agitated I become menacingly quiet and calm. The wine waiter was the only person I could attract. "If I don't see mustard on this table in two minutes, I am going to get up and scream so loudly the entire restaurant will fall silent in shock," I said. That did it. Mustard appeared. I finished with a champagne jelly with soft biscuits and cream, another Bibendum speciality, although, quite honestly, I prefer their blackcurrant jelly.
Sunday, not everything is open in the big city, so I chose the Bombay Brasserie. This time I was driving, followed by two TV crews and various other media devotees. The doorman had been given the night off, which I found irritating, but Vanessa went in and dragged out some employee in evening dress who looked at my old Bentley with fear. Inside, we sat at my table in the greenhouse. The usual Winner "lookers-after", Mr Modi and Mr Hamal, were off, and it showed. We ordered still water and got fizzy. I ordered chicken curry and got chicken biryani. Poor old Orenthal insisted on ordering very spicy curry. I warned him not to, but it was "I can take it" time. When it arrived he kept saying, "Man, this is spicy," and left a lot. That's the sort of thing that happens when people don't take my advice.
The next evening, Monday. Orenthal had to fly to Manchester and appear on a ghastly TV show with a suburban married couple. They were so rude to him, and inept, that he came across as quite a hero. Even though he phoned me just after the show in high dudgeon. We arranged to meet for lunch the following day, Tuesday. For this I picked Daphne's. It has a nice atmosphere, there's always lots of well-dressed ladies there and I thought it would give the bodyguard, Tom, who had never been to Europe, a sight of Britain at its fairly chic almost-best. Unfortunately, Tom had got a little peckish earlier on, and when I arrived at Orenthal's hotel suite the remains of his hamburger and chips stared at me from a room-service table. "Let's wheel this out, Tom." I said. Dirty plates have a terrible effect on one as sensitive as me.
The totally handsome owner of Daphne's, Mogens Tholstrup, came to greet us. He'd just opened a new restaurant across the road. "I don't mind not being on your nearest and dearest 500 list, Mogens," I said. "but when I'm not even on the top 1,000 . . !" "I asked you to the opening," said Mogens. "Course you didn't," I replied. "I'll show you the list . . ." said Mogens. "Just send me some photos. I'll run them as a flicker book," I suggested cheerfully.
Then a note arrived from my favourite marchioness, who was dining in the other room. I ushered her in to meet Orenthal and Tom and she was as gracious as ever. Tom, as he'd eaten, only had a salad. I had very pleasant fried calamari and a mixed grill of fish. I can't remember what Orenthal had to start, but he had penne as a main course.
I like Daphne's, but penne is not their speciality. Orenthal was polite about it.
As we went out to face three television crews and a large horde of photographers. I thought I'd done Orenthal and Tom proud. Three very different restaurants, all good. I couldn't offer up a fourth for dinner because Orenthal had to go to Oxford to speak at the Union. Luckily, they didn't take him to White's, which is where they took me. It was one of the worst eating experiences of my life. I do want Orenthal and Tom to return to La-La land with a splendid impression of our culinary skills.