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Square Meal

Published 7 May 2000
Style Magazine
356th article

All the angles: back, from left, Lavinia Mills, Michael Winner, Tanya Rose; front, Philip Howard (Michael White)

I'd heard a lot about The Square in Bruton Street, Mayfair. Some good, some bad. It has two Michelin stars. I always thought it too posh for a poor boy from Willesden, so I didn't go. My friend the impresario Michael White and I usually lunch at Wiltons. "I've got two very pretty girls who want to meet you," said Michael. "We'll go to The Square."

Twenty minutes before our rendezvous I was in my 1966 Rolls Phantom V, being driven in stately fashion, when I suddenly thought: "I bet the table will be no good." I rang Michael White, but he'd left. "Who booked the table?" I asked an office assistant. "Mason Rose," was the reply. "Who on earth are they?" I asked. "They book tables," said the assistant. "The chance of my staying more than two minutes is remote," I said - and rang off.

I arrived three minutes late, which is rare. I'm normally early. Mr White sat with two nice-looking blondes at a good corner table with a view of the room and people who entered. One of the ladies was Tanya Rose, the Rose of Mason Rose that books tables. "We don't book tables, we book hotels," said Tanya indignantly, hearing me dictate this into the tape. "Tables, hotels, all the same to me," I replied. "We've got a very good list," said Tanya. "Chewton Glen, Parrot Cay . . . " "They get you upgrades and better rooms," interrupted Michael.

The other girl worked with Tanya. Her name was Lavinia. "She used to go to the Pony Club with Philip Howard, the chef here," said Tanya. "I don't remember. I think it was my sister," said Lavinia. "I've got eight blondes working for me," said Tanya. Then, after a pause, "One has dark hair." I'm glad we got that sorted out.

The room was quite pleasant, cafe-like with bizarre paintings resembling hawks gone wrong. The freebie soup arrived. Tanya and Lavinia guessed it was mushroom, Michael White said crab; I sided with him - some sort of fish. "It's a langoustine bisque," we were told. Very nice. Then we got fish cakes. "This can't be the right fork," said Michael, waving a normal-size fork in the air. I was already eating quite happily with the same fork. It just shows how sophisticated Michael White is, I thought. My bread was dreary. But tasting everyone else's, theirs was better. The fish cake was highly enjoyable.

I remarked that the service was very slow. "The reason it's slow," said Michael, "is because you ordered pigeon and it has to be specially cooked. You have to think about these things. You have to ring in advance to book the pigeon." What a load of codswallop, I thought. But as Mr White is the finest of people, I said nothing.

A lady manager I'd beckoned over assured me: "The food's coming now." I've heard that before and waited another 20 minutes. But it did come pretty soon. It was, again, very pleasant. Not massively mucked about and overdecorated, which I'd read some food writer say of The Square. Not the two-star Michelin quality of Gordon Ramsay, that's for sure. But I greatly liked it.

For "pre-dessert" - wonderful word that - we got a cinnamon beigne, which to simple folk like me is a cinnamon doughnut. This was totally top-of-the-line historic. I ate mine. Then I nicked Tanya's. Then I ate Michael's. They were so delicious that I asked to take some with me. Thus, I left with six doughnuts in a see-through plastic bag. I gave one to my PA, Margaret, and ate the rest myself. Beside that, my main dessert of apple-and-raisin strudel with vanilla and spices was fine, but nothing special. Tanya had a creme brulee with pineapple and passion fruit. "This was the best part of my meal, but I'm so full I can only eat half of it," she said. Michael piped up. "I'm going to wash my hands so I can take the photo for you," he said. "You're quite right, Michael. My Leica camera is very pristine," I responded.

It was a most pleasing meal, company-wise and food-wise. I'd definitely go back. Philip Howard, the chef, came to see us. Referring to Lavinia, he said he remembered a toga party with the Mills sisters. I was hoping for intimate details when I suddenly realised Tanya had paid the bill. This upset me because we Scorpios like to be the host. We love paying bills. I sent Tanya a large bunch of flowers the next day. She sent me an enormous brochure and a book about her company. She's a lovely girl, but that was too much for me. I put them in the waste basket.


Michael Winner's article on Gstaad (Style, April 23) was unfair. The village still has charm, but Mayfair mercenaries in 4WDs have reduced it to a Knightsbridge nightmare, clogging the high street and bringing the only through road in the valley to a halt. The moneyed classes seem unable to use the car parks, as that involves abandoning their status symbols and walking - no fun if you're just popping in to buy caviar. So I was delighted by the hydraulic blocking posts that limit access to the high street to essential services only, and the bypass has made the village live again. What's more, I'm sure that Mr Winner's health was improved by his little trot to the Olden to sample the steak tartare.
Chas Maclean Cochand, by e-mail

Last month, my family and I arrived at the Hard Rock Cafe in London to be informed that we could be seated immediately but we would have to leave my eight-week-old son's pushchair outside. What are parents supposed to do with infants too young to sit in highchairs? And why pretend that the Hard Rock Cafe is a family restaraunt if babies are not welcome? Would they admit a customer in a wheelchair or would they also have to leave their chair outside?
Jane Stevens, by e-mail

I always enjoy reading Michael Winner's restaurant review and on many occasions agree with his views. However, while on holiday in Barbados I decided to act on his recommendation and visit the Lone Star restaurant. Yes, the ambience and the idyllic setting are outstanding, but the food and service fell well below our expectations. When I asked to see the manager, I was informed that the general manager, Mr Rory Rodger, was not in attendance that evening. Perhaps that would account for our bad experience, but for a restaurant charging such high prices, it was very disappointing. As an excellent alternative, may I recommend The Cliff or La Terra for an exquisite and faultless dining experience. These two are not to be missed.
Anthony Leyens, London

And it came to me in a dream: Mr Winner dressed as Julius Caesar behind a kebab shop counter, carving up a skewered side of lamb. "Do you want chilli sauce with that, my friend?" he said. "No," I replied. Historic!
Zak Brilliant, by e-mail