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Published 7 July 1996
Style Magazine
157th article

You can have your cake: Vanessa Perry with her birthday treat (Arnold Crust)

I'll murder the Green Room at the Cafe Royal, I thought. Everyone likes a "killing" review. I hear the food's not up to much. We went for Vanessa's birthday treat, to see Anthony Newley in cabaret. He's off now, but if he's on again, go. He's brilliant! Her guests hadn't heard of Newley. Anything before Oasis or Blur confused them. I spent a long time recalling David Lean's Oliver Twist and how wonderful Newley was as the Artful Dodger, and outlined his career. Later, one young man said: "I loved the choreography in that." "What?" I asked. "Oliver Twist," he said. I give up.

We arrived in the awful hallway of the Cafe Royal complex of reception rooms and the excellent Grill Room. Notice boards listed the reception rooms, no sign for the Green Room existed. I asked. "First floor," I was told. There waited Patrick Graham, the Green Room manager, and David Arcusi, the superb restaurant manager of the Grill. "Herbert Berger [the Michelin star wonderful executive chef] has come in on his day off to cook for you," said Mr Arcusi. "We've got two bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal on the house." Ungracious to murder now! No, I shall be strict and honest, as ever. If I don't like it, I'll say so and pay for the champers. After all, I'm paying for my whole table, more than the press did on the first night. No wine waiter for along time, I noted, no bread for a long time, no orders taken for a long time, yet we'd been asked to be there early to be ready for the cabaret. The restaurant manager had not been in the receiving line and now made no effort to come over.

There's a three-course menu with choices. Vanessa and I had melon with sauternes to start. Definitely all right. The room was green (surprise), low-ceilinged, an old-type cabaret place. The young couple opposite, an actor (the expert on Oliver Twist) and his wife, a teacher, had salad of crab, prawns and artichokes with basil oil. He pronounced it "not very bold, lacking in flavour" (describes food better than me!). She said: "No bite to the lettuce."

The young, red-haired Irish waitress with glasses was perking up. Her name was "Elaine Blood, as in Captain". For the main course, Vanessa and I had baked haddock with cheese and tomato crust, herb butter sauce. This was extremely good. I asked the next table how they liked theirs, maybe not supervised by Mr Berger. They were full of praise. The vegetables arrived when I'd finished two-thirds of the fish. I'm a quick eater, but I think the non-appearing restaurant manager should have had two waiters for a main course service for 12, not left it to one girl. When the veg did arrive - carrots, beans and turnips in one bowl, somewhere a bowl of potatoes that never got to me - they were not the tastiest, but good enough. A couple came later and had spinach ravioli with oyster mushrooms and parmesan. They usually eat well. They declared it terrific. There was then a hold-up for the cabaret. The restaurant manager, Alan Duffy, came over just before. "Been hiding, have you?" I asked cheerfully. He fled. Miss Blood took our orders for dessert during the show, which annoyed me. No artiste should have to put up with that, but maybe they were frightened of me. I stopped table attention until Tony was over. Then most of us had a chocolate mousse thing, which was first-rate; the latecomers had plum and almond tart, which they didn't like.

Vanessa's birthday cake looked and tasted good, which is unusual. A number of people came for my autograph and I asked them if they'd liked their meal. They all said yes. People do not always say that when I ask. Someone should take the Cafe Royal complex and shake it violently. It's in a superb position a few yards from Piccadilly Circus. The Grill is one of the great rooms of London, it could be a really exciting place. It needs a separate entrance for the Grill and, if poss, a separate way to the Green Room. Then let the functioneers get on with it, shielded from the rest.

We all thought the Green Room was fine, probably encouraged by the particularly good Newley show. Whether we'd have thought so if it had been a forthcoming attraction, the singing postman of the 1950s, Craig Douglas, I don't know. I once directed Craig in a film when he sang for me at the old Society Restaurant, now Tramp. Sorry, I can't murder the Green Room. I'll just have to find somewhere else.


Football football, the soccer-themed fast-food restaurant on the Haymarket in London, has received some bad reviews recently. Despite this, I went there with friends following the England vs Scotland match at Wembley. The food was not good, but no matter: England had just beaten Scotland, and the Spain vs France match was being shown live. Then, disaster struck. As soon as the Spain-France game ended, the screens switched to showing music videos. We called the manager and asked if we might watch the highlights of the England-Scotland match. This request was refused despite our pointing out how significant the match was. If Football, Football fails, it will not be because of the food, but because it doesn't really care about the sport to which it is ostensibly devoted.
Jerry Goldberg, Edinburgh