Published 30 January 2000 Style Magazine 342nd article
Michael Winner with Roger Moore, Kristina Knudsen, Geoffrey Moore and Lulu at Hush (Natasha Brooks-Baker)
I rarely read restaurant reviews, but I saw some for Hush, the Mayfair place opened recently by Roger Moore's son, Geoffrey, and one of my former lawyers, Jamie Barber. Even critics who are normally bland or relentlessly kind went bananas with their invective. A lot of it seemed to be, rather unreasonably, because the two young men who own it had never been in the restaurant business before. So what? Everyone has to start somewhere.
I had my moan before I got there. I found it impossible to locate. It's in an alley leading to a mews off Bond Street. I've heard of exclusive, but hidden is ridiculous. As a result of my complaints a sign was put in Lancashire Court saying "Hush". The last time I looked it was on another building altogether with no arrow to show the direction one should take. Anyway, I found it, eventually, and thought it exceptionally pleasant. Downstairs it's lively, canteen-like, with no tablecloths. Upstairs it's grey, elegant and with a long bar. "Isn't this the most comfortable bar stool you ever sat on?" asked Roger Moore with paternal pride. I'm not the best person to judge bar stools. I don't go to bars. It seemed perfectly all right, but not a stool I'd write home about.
I chose "Hushed" - a delightful drink consisting of "Svensk vodka, lichenne butterscotch, schnapps and cinnamon cream". "I'll only have one," I volunteered. "You certainly won't have two, because I won't buy you another," said Rog. I noticed lunch was expensive. The set menu upstairs is £32 for three courses, excluding vegetables, coffee and 12.5% for service. That makes a normal meal for one £46.69. As opposed to three courses, including everything, at Claridge's or the Dorchester, for £29.50. Geoffrey Moore came over. "Are you going to take an order, Geoffrey?" I said. "You haven't got a pad." "He's not taking the order, he's the owner," said Roger.
Unlike some serious food critics, I liked what l ate. I had salmon fish cakes with creme fraiche and chilli sauce, then sea bass on spinach. Kristina, Rog's lady friend, chose moules. I nicked some. They were superb. I then started on Kristina's soup-like sauce, which was not a south-of-France taste, but excellent. Rog, the proud father, showed me his celeriac and foie gras soup and said: "Doesn't it look pretty?" Desserts took a very long time, so I watched Lulu doing some interview in the bar. When they arrived, the chocolate pud was okay, the apple crumble very fine indeed.
The waiter offered two types of espresso: "One is rossa blend, which is smooth and subtle, the other's paradiso, which is more robust, it gives you more of a lift." I should have ordered both, swilled them around in my mouth, spat them out all over the place and given you a definitive view of the tastes. But I ordered paradiso and it was charming.
Hush is definitely good, but I think the menu could be more inventive. More different. I'm getting bored with British nouvelle cuisine. If I see another piece of grilled fish on a bed of spinach I shall vomit. Hush is in central London and it looks jolly. They should pinch some of the Ivy menu ideas. There, they try more unusual things and they're terrific.
I promised to tell you about my harrowing times on the supremely beautiful beach of the Jalousie Hilton, St Lucia. As with many resort hotels, beach management was appalling. Guests of extraordinary vulgarity nick your chairs. Nobody protected the regulars. In well-run hotels, residents have a spot and it's kept for them. When the hotel-provided nanny of a highly volatile American sat on one of my chairs, I objected and he started screaming. Nearly hit me. It took a day before my charm won him over. We both yelled abuse at a large yacht vomiting smoke. "You can be in my team any time, pal," he said, honouring me with an energetic handclasp.
Another time, after lunch, two English girls were prostrate on my loungers with a garage sale of clothes spread around. I asked them to go.
A few moments later their grandmother appeared. "My granddaughters are very nice girls. You were rude to them," she snapped.
"They're not nice, they're chair grabbers," I responded.
"You should have left possessions," replied enraged granny.
"We did. An umbrella, a bowl of fruit and newspapers," I said indignantly.
"That's not enough," she retorted. "I shall report you."
"Who to?" I asked.
"The gift shop."
Lovely place, the Jalousie Hilton; I did like it. But if you go, take barbed wire and landmines to protect your space.
I recently ate at Porters in Covent Garden, London, where I noticed a sticker declaring the restaurant a Winner-Free Zone. My first course was hot on the outside but cold in the middle. One of their world-famous pies was lukewarm. A ginger and banana pudding was smothered in a gelatinous, white and tasteless sauce. It appeared a banana short of its description. A glass of pudding wine tasted sorely aged and far from luscious. Presumably a Winner-Free Zone excludes Winner, so he cannot possibly lambast them in his column. In my view, such places should be treated with caution.
John Carey, Uxbridge, Middx
You may find lengthy menus tedious (Style, January 9), but living in a "provincial" town as I do, it simply isn't possible to skip from restaurant to restaurant in search of a suitable set menu - there just aren't enough restaurants. I don't have a car and, although I hitchhiked around Europe years ago, I don't feel that I could resort to that for a night out.
Cath Stobbart, Kendal, Cumbria
I feel compelled to point out that the acronym "Miss Lid" should be used with caution when visiting "Indian" restaurants. In Urdu, "lid" means "dung of horse or elephant". May I suggest you use "khub" (Kind, Honest, Uplifting Beauty) instead, which translates as elegant and nice.
Michael Jefferson, by e-mail
Your recent correspondent, Mr N Prigg of Birmingham (Style, January 9), lamented the lack of Welsh representation at McDonald's. However, leafing through their food-facts leaflet, I discovered a number of "Dais", both artificial and natural, as well as an emphasis on "Bach" bacon.
Mike McIntyre, East Leake, Leics
I feel I must comment on your remarks concerning poor service in restaurants. If you had ever had the misfortune of serving the public, you would concede that we are suffering the consequences of our own actions. I worked in an establishment that gave impeccable service to all its customers, and where the cutlery was always spotlessly clean. Nevertheless, three or four customers a day would return it saying it was dirty. Knowing this was not the case, I would take the offending piece to the kitchen, skip round the chef and return it to the table, to a reply of: "That's better, don't let it happen again." Faced with such a "pompous arse" attitude, it's not hard to understand why staff don't always go around with a smile on their face. I would suggest that what goes around comes around.
Ofar Quarson, London