Published 14 March 1999 Style Magazine 296th article
My little pony: Michael Winner, Mati Conajero, Vanessa Perry and Marco Pierre White at the Mirabelle
Marco Pierre White is highly talented and amusing. He's also nutty, machiavellian, mercurial, utterly childish, irrational and dangerous. All qualities I greatly admire.
It was Michael Caine who first took me to some narrow, suburban, restaurant where Marco knocked up sensational food that took for ever to arrive. Some time later, Mr C transposed Marco's fortunes from diminished to substantial by ferrying him across the river. Marco now acknowledges this graciously, and therefore about a year ago I was able to resume our warm, if occasionally fractious, relationship. I was upset when he asked to come to Vanessa's birthday party at his Mirabelle restaurant and didn't turn up. My remark about never setting foot in the Mirabelle again was extremely funny, but too outrageous for a sophisticated journal.
London's most distinguished newspaper editor booked the Mirabelle shortly thereafter for our lunch, thus ending my fatwa. We had a superb meal. Later, I was due to cut a ribbon to open the Titanic for a generous donation to my police charity. I spoke to one of Marco's PRs.
"What exactly is happening tomorrow?" I asked.
"I've just been told you're opening the restaurant," she replied.
"Marco!" I expostulated. "This is meant to be a highly public event - nobody knows I'm involved."
"I do," said Marco. "And Mati does." Mati's his girlfriend. "Yes," I said, "and Vanessa knows and I know. That's four people in a city of six million. It isn't enough."
I auctioned a bottle of champagne for thousands of pounds at the Crimestoppers Ball instead.
The Mirabelle is a great achievement of which Marco is rightly proud. After clumsy decor by David Collins, Marco charged in, added a wonderful, twirling glass disco ball, from the Hotel de Paris, relaid the floor in attractive, warm panelling, got cheerful pictures, nice sculptures and created details that make it genuinely elegant. Large white bowls of Maureen tulips from France abound
in the alcoves. At a recent lunch they didn't have crisps in the bar, but excellent fried calamari turned up, then home-made chipolatas wrapped in ventreche bacon. These were an epic taste experience.
We sat at a large table in the window. I started with the best kipper I've ever eaten. And in the middle of Mayfair on a Sunday! Marco ordered Chateau Lafite 1982 and Mouton-Rothschild 1970 - extremely serious wines.
"Wash your month out after the kipper," he instructed, "otherwise you won't taste them properly."
Marco wouldn't give me a bill, so the next day I sent him £500 for lunch for two, which may have been low as we finished with Chateau d'Yquem. Vanessa adored her main course of smoked haddock with bubble and squeak, but my corned beef hash was odd. There was hardly any corned beef and the hash brown potatoes were so overcooked and tough I had difficulty cutting them with my knife.
The waffle that followed was a total disaster. Marco may be a three-star Michelin chef, the toast of London, a rightly acclaimed celebrity, a food expert supreme, but when it comes to waffles he knows zilch. These were white and rubbery, no taste, no texture, just ghastly.
"They're French," responded Marco glumly when I proffered my view.
The French are famous for many things. The waffle is not one of them. You could write all Marco knows about waffles on the head of a pin and still have room for the collected works of Jackie Collins. I'm an expert. Waffles are best eaten in America, specifically at the coffee shop of the Beverly Hills Hotel. There Gary produced the finest waffles in the history of the world. He has departed but passed on the secret to Julio Herrarte. Marco should fly him over.
Waffles are made from a batter and have to be "cooked" immediately. The Beverly Hills base is a malted pancake waffle mix from Carbons of Los Angeles. Julio adds eggs, milk, melted butter and a little vanilla. The vanilla, he assures me, is the secret. This is poured straight into the griddle and out comes a lovely, golden brown, slightly crisp, totally historic taste sensation. No French are involved at all and thank God for that.
You add maple syrup so it soaks through and, if you like, more melted butter or cream or ice cream. Marco ordered jam and whipped cream to go on his. It shows even someone of extraordinary culinary talent can have an achilles heel. I'm sure Marco's extremely pleased I've offered advice that could turn the "Mirabelle Waffle" from ghastly to great. Beyond that the whole place is terrific. Even Jeremy King of the Ivy was there. If you can get in, go!
We recently decided to spend a celebratory evening in the sumptuous setting of the Savoy. Imagine our horror when the staff presented our smart colleague (whose success we were celebrating) with a bright red blazer, complete with grubby cuffs, black buttons and accompanying tie, which was apparently intended to make his presence acceptable to the rest of the clientele. Needless to say, we headed off for the Aldwych and left the blazer in question for another unsuspecting guest.
Victoria and Caroline, London W10
My taste buds were tingling as I read about Vanessa's lunch - "cream of cauliflower soup with arran mustard" - at the Bell Inn (Style, February 21). But surely the isle of Arran is entitled to a capital A, just as Claridge's is to its capital C or the Dorchester to its capital D? Arran is a capital wee island with the best choice of mustard and cheese. You really should try some.
Jean Spence, Dalry, Ayrshire
After a meal at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York last year, my wife stood up to find her trousers were covered in a thick, black, sticky substance. After discussing the problem with a member of staff, it was agreed that the company would pay for replacement trousers. We have since written on several occasions, but have yet to receive a response. Given that Robert Earl, the owner of the Hard Rock, is an aquaintance of yours, perhaps you would take this matter up with him?
K Morrison, Liverpool