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My apple crumble treat for ladies who lunch on a budget

Published 25 May 2003
News Review
515th article

Lunch bunch: Gwen, John, Winner, Hayley and Sylvia at Frederick's (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

I hadn't been to Frederick's in Highcliffe, Dorset, for four years. It's one of my finds and very pleasantly run by John and Sylvia Gray, who emigrated from Essex.

She cooks, he serves.

My photo adorns the wall, proving they have immaculate taste. The food is wholesome, very English, no messing about. For Sunday lunch I ordered potato and leek soup and roast lamb. There was a very old waitress, Gwen, in a white cardigan.

"Is she a member of the family?" I asked John.

"No," he said, "she's a waitress."

In the kitchen I could see a girl called Haley with the word Player on the back of her mauve T-shirt. Geraldine said she couldn't taste the leek in her soup and it was very full of carbohydrates. I enjoyed mine because I'm common.

My main course consisted of four nicely crisp roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, big cuts of lamb, spinach, swede puree, carrots and gravy. I liked it.

I said to Sylvia: "You could cut down these portions by two-thirds, they'd still be large and you'd increase your profits."

Geraldine had mushroom in a brandy parcel and flaky pastry. She described it as "delicious".

I was entranced by two lovely old ladies at a nearby table. One of them, dressed in grey, had a pink scarf round her neck and a black, grey and white tartan skirt.

She chose apple crumble. She asked John: "Is it hot?" I interrupted, saying: "Yes."

Then she asked: "Is the custard hot?" When she learnt she had to pay extra for it she said: "I won't have the crumble, I thought it was all in."

I said: "John, give the lady a crumble on my bill." She turned and mouthed: "No."

I said: "It's perfectly all right, please have the crumble on me."

Her friend, in a red shirt, said to her: "You've got an admirer." I said to the lady in red: "You have a crumble."

She said: "I only like to have something I don't make at home." She wasn't having coffee because of the cost.

I said to John quietly: "I'll pay, give her a coffee."

On my way to the kitchen to take our photo I said to the old ladies: "Please, have your lunch on me." The grey lady said: "No, we couldn't."

I said: "You'll make an old man very happy." She said: "You're not old." I said: "That depends. Please, let me buy you lunch."

Then I went into the kitchen for our photo, telling John to put the ladies' lunch on my bill. When I came out the grey lady said: "I know who you are now. Can I have your autograph?" She produced a tiny pad.

I said: "Do you have a pen?" She said: "I play bridge, so I've got my bridge pen."

Then I kissed them both and the grey lady said: "You've made our day." I said: "Actually, you've made mine." They really had, bless them.

  • From an atmosphere of charm and calm I turn to London's Dorchester hotel and dinner given by a star. Standing in the lobby, a surly hotel employee dressed like a car park attendant at an East End dog track blocked my way.

    He said: "Where are you going?" I replied: "To the ballroom."

    He said: "You can't." I said: "I'm invited to Liza Minnelli's party."

    He ordered: "Go back to Park Lane and walk to the ballroom entrance." I said: "I usually go through the doors from the lobby."

    He barked: "You won't get in, they're locked." I said: "I'll try." As I walked by he again snarled: "They're locked."

    At the rear of the lobby was a screen leaving ample room to pass. A properly dressed staff member was seeing guests through to the reception. He said: "Good evening, Mr Winner."

    I walked a few paces to the ballroom doors, which were not locked. There, another attendant was showing people in.

    I returned to the front and gave the East End car park attendant my views. I asked for his first and second names. He wrote "C Ranford". Not many people are christened C.

    The duty manager, Dragan Ban, had been standing adjacent to this man. I also told him what I thought.

    After the reception I was taking Jane Russell (yes, the real one) back to her hotel. I held her hand as Jane is 81 and a bit frail.

    My Bentley was parked in front of the Dorchester. The doorman gave me the keys and then stood by, making no attempt to open the doors for Jane Russell, Geraldine or me. Perhaps it's time the Dorchester's general manager, David Wilkinson, retired.

    There's surely someone who can do better.

    Winner's letters

    I don't know why I read you. I can only liken it to the awful fascination of a road accident - you know you shouldn't look, but you do. Then you get another example of the Essential Winner. In your column last week you commended the manager of Zuma because he satisfied your cravings for an instantaneous second helping by giving you an order being prepared for another customer. Seven lines later you moaned that you had waited too long for your chocolate pudding. You didn't consider that someone with more clout than you may have leant on the head waiter to snaffle your portion.
    Ian Jefferson, Hammersmith

    How dare Lore Wilkens-Wertmuller (Winner's Letters, May 11) attack you so bitterly for saying I'm the only Swiss person worth talking to! She is proof that many Swiss people have no sense of humour. Some of us are able to laugh at ourselves and at your very funny column.
    Dieter Abt, St Moritz

    Peter Crome wouldn't be on my roll of honour (Winner's Dinners, May 4). My husband and I spent four nights at Chewton Glen. Mr Crome didn't acknowledge us until breakfast on the third day. I returned my double-baked Emmenthal souffle as I didn't like the frothy milk-like substance it was swimming in. The breakfast service was sometimes in disarray. The reception staff and porters were extremely efficient.
    Mrs S Wiseman, Hampshire

    I find Michael Winner's arm placements in the Winner's Dinners photos quite fascinating. If the restaurant staff member is female, young and pretty she gets his protective arm around her shoulder. If the person is male, younger and better-looking than Michael (but then who isn't?) the arm is repressive. Clearly there's life in the old dog yet.
    Colin Drury, Vale of Glamorgan

    Last week a reader asked: what is it about Ludlow? The answer is that it's an overrated culinary myth. The much-publicised Merchant House has the charm of granny's parlour and the food is just ordinary. Similarly, Hibiscus has little to commend it. Perhaps Mr Winner should spend a weekend casting his sharp eye over the town and deflate the PR balloon.
    Dennis Smith, Surrey

    Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST or e-mail michael.winner@sunday-times.co.uk