Published 21 July 1996 Style Magazine 159th article
Cool hands: Ben Cohen, left, Michael Winner and Jerry Greenfield, right (Vanessa Perry)
We all have something that annoys out of all relation to its reality. I go bonkers when people write I am always at ﬁrst nights, premieres and parties. I hardly go to any. I am as near a recluse as you get! I hate going to new restaurants and seldom do. I like the familiar. It is thus getting tough to be out and about enough to describe a different place each week. Except when abroad, then I tend to be more adventurous. So when, recently, I attended three parties in one night it was a record. Had I not in view the joy of telling you about it, I would not have gone.
First the Rolls pulled up outside the American embassy in an area cordoned off as Park and Die! Nobody seemed to care, so I told the chauffeur to stay. We walked up steps to the front of the embassy to be told the "Ben and Jerry Special Ice Cream Envoys from Vermont" event was entered by the side door. The security man was most helpful and offered to take me through anyway. In a barren room a few people gathered with an ice cream stall. This was the launch of Cool Britannia, a new B&J pink ice cream with "chocolate-covered Scottish shortbread" in it! I like my ice cream creamier than this tasted. I prefer not to have blobs of anything added. It was not an unrivalled success. The best ice cream in England is to be had at the Harbour Bar in Scarborough, where Giulian Alonzi owns an extraordinary 1950s time warp with wonderful signs and decor. The next best is Marine Ices in Chalk Farm. Haagen-Dazs is somewhere down the line.
There were two fat men in T-shirts wandering about and this turned out to be both Ben and Jerry in person! I was impressed. I told them I'd had a pink canape that was okay minus and a prawn cracker that was okay. Jerry said he liked the prawn crackers, so I upped them to okay plus, to be polite. A note on the invite said "No cameras", but who could resist a photo with Ben and Jerry? "We'll come outside," they offered. I went up to a man at the door. "I want to get my camera from that car," I said imperiously, pointing to the Rolls, still unattacked by the No Parking cones. "No cameras," said Manny Enes. "Don't be silly . . ." "Okay," he responded. Mr Enes had a badge describing him as "Trade Specialist". He escorted me out and then in again. I doubt if a British embassy official would be so quick to do something like that. I had just missed Gerald Kaufman; that pleased me. I once wrote Mr Kaufman the rudest letter I have ever written anyone and, believe me, that's something! Bill Oddie was in a corner; he's very talented, but by the time Vanessa pointed him out I was on my way to the next party.
This was given by HBO, the American top cable channel, in the Roof Gardens in Kensington. I remember these when waitresses in black with frilly white tiaras served tea. Now it's owned by Richard Branson and only open to members on Thursdays and Saturdays. The rest of the time it's on hire for parties, and this one was well catered. Excellent steaks, chicken, tuna steaks, nice canapes, no massive line for the food, somewhere to sit, lively. The club manager, Herve Canevet (that's a good name), said he'd make me a member. I chatted with Tracey Ullman. We recalled a trip across Barbados to the Kingsley Club on the Atlantic, rough side of the island, which is very beautiful with sort of pillared rocks and hardly built up. I recommend it if you go there - local Bajan cooking, excellent lobsters.
I finished off the evening at "The Seventh Birthday of Sticky Fingers". I like Sticky Fingers, but I don't understand why Bill Wyman lowered the roof and raised most of the floor, because it increased the noise level dreadfully. I met Russ Abbott, who didn't know l used to sit outside the Prince of Wales waiting for my then girlfriend who was his dresser and said very nice things about him. And a comedian called Phil Cool did superb cartoon-character impersonations. I also had a strawberry milkshake to end the night. They are exceptional.
PS: I forgot, and this is important. They served Haagen-Dazs at the HBO do, but it had chocolate covering with nuts. I hate "added to" ice cream. The dodgy nuts taste destroyed the nice creamy ice cream and okay chocolate. Giulian Alonzi in Scarborough would never do such a thing. But then the 1950s were food excellent.
I was interested in Mr Winner's claim that Harry's Bar in Venice is the "best restaurant in the world" (June 30). While the taste and texture of food is such a highly subjective sensation, I applaud his courage in identifying with such candour one eating establishment among millions. May I venture that Italy itself should be considered the country most capable of containing the best restaurants in the world. For sheer diversity of tastes and texture, I recommend La Moia, here in the Monferrato area. The best time is Sunday afternoon, when up to 10 courses or more are served from 12.30pm to 4.30pm to tables of ebullient Italians. Each course is sufficient to excite the palate yet not so large as to be overfilling. They are chosen to complement each other. There is no written menu, it is simply served with a small announcement but you can have as much or as little as you like. If you are drinking red, then the local barbera from the restaurant's own vineyard is delicious, while barolo and (the ultimate) dolcetto d'alba are also available. The latter wine is really superior to anything the French have to offer, but known to fewer people. The best part of this Piemonte specialities experience is the bill probably equivalent to one course at Harry's Bar.
William Mitchell, Cocconato, Italy
I am writing to convey my appreciation of Aherne's, Youghal, Co Cork, where my wife and I have stayed recently. We were charged a modest £100 a night for our large room, which was of equal or higher standard than many so-called de luxe suites that are billed at several times that rate. The standard of service afforded by every member of the staff was of such a high calibre that any one of them could have been the actual owner. I would also recommend the excellent food.
Serge Boissevain, London SW3