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Billing and cooing

Published 29 November 1998
Style Magazine
281st article



My turn: Michael Winner, Adolfo and Patricia Tiraboschi, Kristina Tholstrup and Roger Moore at Mediterraneo (Vanessa Perry)

My friend Rog (as in Moore) said he'd like to take Vanessa and me, with his lady friend Kristina, to Mediterraneo in Netting Hill. Apparently his daughter Deborah (as in actress) frequents it. I am totally enamoured of an Italian restaurant in Notting Hill called Assaggi. I think Pietro and Nino have created one of the great restaurants of London, both in food quality and atmosphere. Did I really need a second Italian venue so nearby? "I must be adventurous," I thought. So off we went.

This may surprise and even distress you, but I am normally unbelievably quiet and polite. I am of the old school. I stand up when ladies enter or leave the room or the table, I use "please" and "thank you" exquisitely. I am close to behavioural perfection. It is only on exceedingly rare occasions that I become a bit flash. We pushed through a bustling outer room to a lower-ceilinged inner room at Mediterraneo, where I was taken aback by the noise and closeness of the tables, and further taken aback by finding a lady's bag on the floor so I couldn't move my chair to sit down. I pointed this out and a nice girl quickly took it away. Then I dictated into my tape "I am at . . ." and forgot the name of the restaurant. The bag-mover was behind me looking at her menu, so I leant over and grabbed it with only a brief "Excuse me." She was very nice about this and I soon handed it back. But feeling guilty, I whispered to the boss: "That table, give me their bill."

I'll skip to the end now. The girls were very generous in thanking me. I hoped I hadn't upset their escorts. What if they felt, "We could have paid for this. Who does he think he is?" A few days later I got a very nice letter from Mrs Julietta Longcroft, who's in public relations in Savile Row, with a "huge thank you for taking all four of us to dinner and thank you for making our evening so memorable". The next day I got another warm epistle from Marc and Camilla Stacpoole in Hampshire (very posh place), also thanking me, saying they loved the restaurant and found the food delicious, and were thrilled to "find we were dining in such glamorous company". They also recommended a restaurant called Roussillon, in Pimlico, which a friend of theirs, James Palmer, had just opened.

That group summed up Mediterraneo. Full of young, active, attractive and very well-behaved people. All making far too much noise. I don't mean they were talking loudly, but there were too many of them in an acoustically disastrous room. So much so that Roger rang me the next day and said: "Could you tell me that story about Dorritt again? I didn't quite get it." "I'm not surprised," I said, "with all that din." "The front room's quieter, but they thought you wanted privacy," said Roger.

Mediterraneo is definitely an "in" place. Pink walls, the owner, Adolfo Tiraboschi, in a matching red shirt; his lovely wife, Patricia, smiling and greeting to perfection. Kristina thought they should have candles on the table. "And there's not enough room for my handbag," she said.

I had pasta with porcini mushrooms to start. Vanessa had carpaccio of tuna. She declared it was very good. Then I ate a lot of someone else's mashed potato, plus a traditional Italian fish stew with garlic toasted bread to mop up the oil. Rog had roast lamb. "This is a real neighbourhood restaurant," I dictated into my recorder, adding: "In a really noisy neighbourhood." Then, as I was casual and Rog was, as ever, totally immaculate, I dictated: "This is the only time I've ever been in a restaurant with Roger where I was more suitably dressed than he was." To which Roger replied: "Wanker!"

They gave us a glass of champagne, lemon sorbet and a touch of vodka, which I liked. Then I had home-made chocolate and ricotta cheesecake on a bed of chocolate sauce, which I thought was average. Overall though, Mediterraneo is good and fun.

As we were getting into my aged Rolls Phantom outside, Patricia Tiraboschi ran out with Kristina's valuable earring. That was nice, I thought. After all, she could have flogged it in nearby Portobello Road. But I don't think Mediterraneo is like that. It's full of pleasant people. Think - you could become one of them. But don't reckon on me being there to pick up the bill. I liked it. But at Assaggi I can hear myself talk. And that's a pleasure I wouldn't miss for anything.



Letters

Poor T J Douglas (Style, November 15) having to pay £530 for his drinks bill at Aubergine in Chelsea. That's my monthly salary as a humble NHS worker. He should have gone instead to Isnik in Highbury, north London, where he could have had a mouthwatering eating experience and still had enough change for a week in Turkey.
S Lieber, Hove, E Sussex

Having read a number of glowing reviews of Club Gascon in Smithfield, east London, I decided to give it a try. While I cannot criticise the room or the food, the level of service was completely dreadful. The French waiters had such a sketchy grasp of English that ordering was a nightmare and we had to ask three times for everything. At the end of the meal my companion had a cup of tea with milk. After the third try she finally got a jug - of hot milk. Who in Britain drinks tea with hot milk? Why is it that, in London, every imaginable colour, creed and race can give you good service apart from our closest neighbours? Is it arrogance?
R Thomas, London SW4

A stylishly decorated Italian restaurant north of the Thames? Two a penny I hear you cry. Okay, then - what about the above, but with room to park the Roller, staff who know how to smile and serve you efficiently, nine varieties of grappa, and an Oscar on the shelves whose recipient is a regular? We enjoyed a lunch in such a place that scored 9 3/4 points on the pleasure scale (I docked a quarter of a point because other commitments beckoned). Intrigued? Send me a signed photograph, and I'll send you the address.
Clive R Brickell, Blandford Forum, Dorset