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Inching my way to becoming half the man I used to be

Published 1 May 2005
News Review
616th article

From left: Mason, Winner, Bauner and Rose at the Sonnenhof (Dieter Urech)

There are people who are bright and people who are not bright. When it comes to those in public relations there are people who are stupid and people who are more stupid. However, there's always an exception and Tanya Rose is it.

Tanya runs a very posh organisation called Mason Rose. There used to be a Sarah Mason involved. But she went into selling baby clothes. There's a moral around somewhere.

Mason Rose helps hotels by publishing a book and generally trying to get people to turn up.

Or something. They're very successful. I saw why one day in Gstaad in Switzerland.

I'd asked the Palace hotel to book me in to the Sonnenhof restaurant. It's the Ivy of Saanen, near Gstaad. After many calls the hotel PR reported: "They're fully booked." So Tanya and Sarah (the baby clothes one on holiday with her old partner) went up to the restaurant in person. They probably told the owner I was unbelievably important. Well, I am. Anyway, we got in.

Roger Moore first took me to the Sonnenhof years ago with French singer and nightclub owner Regine. It was full of the rich and richer who inhabit Gstaad. Now it's run by husband and wife team Louise and Eric Bauner. She does front of house, he cooks. I don't know why Louise isn't in our photo. My mistake.

It's a chalet type place, as is everything in and around Gstaad. Which is far better than the blob buildings we put up. There's a lovely view from its exterior tables onto pine and snow-covered mountains and valleys.

As it was night and cold we were inside. I'm increasingly taken with Switzerland.

It's very orderly. There's no litter. The scenery is spectacular. It seems to be running smoothly. They're famous for yodelling, Julie Andrews (incorrectly) and rosti. Hash brown potatoes, they call them in America. They are sensational.

I had shrimps, which they peeled for me. Just as I was not put on earth to unwrap sugar I was not put on earth to peel shrimps.

Then I had Veal Zurich. This was not veal with Swiss francs. It was with a creamy, mushroom sauce.

I added rosti.

I ordered their excellent chocolate mousse. Tanya said: "I like chocolate mousse, I'll have a spoon." I got one for her.

I can't bear other people's cutlery invading my space.

It was a delightful meal. If you're in the area - and they let you in - go. When we returned, the Palace hotel publicity woman asked Tanya and Sarah how they got the table. "We went up there. That's how we did it!" said Sarah. I can't say the Palace hotel PR woman burst into tears at being shown up by the Brits. What did she care?

  • As there's nothing else I wish to tell you about Switzerland I'll report I've lost over a stone and a half. For the first time in my life I'm having jackets tightened rather than expanded.

    I followed my friend Lord Glenconner's recommendation of eating hardly anything for dinner and cutting down in general. If I can do it, you can. Willpower not being my strong suit, let in or otherwise.

    My friend Robert Earl - who had troubles with Planet Hollywood, but now he and the business have bounced back - invited me to his restaurant called V. This is in Robert's large casino in a historic building at the top of St James's.

    The supervising chef is Jean-Georges Vongerichten. who's very significant in New York. He came here years ago to open Vong in the Berkeley hotel, which is now Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Cafe.

    Robert's casino, Fifty, has all been beautifully decked out with an Asian restaurant downstairs and a nightclub. In V restaurant there was Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sarah Brightman, my favourite shopkeeper - Philip Green - me, Paola, Robert and others. I started with egg caviar, which apparently JG is famous for.

    Caviar and some whipped up stuff in an eggshell. Very good.

    Then I had a first-rate old-fashioned Dover sole meuniere. This used to be everywhere. But it's been replaced by sea bass on a bed of spinach. Just as you never see shrimp cocktail today with pink sauce and lettuce. And what happened to those meat loaves with an egg through the middle?

    I adored them.

    A lot of readers asked to see a photo of my lovely new girlfriend, Paola. She won't permit that. Doesn't want people pointing at her in the supermarket, muttering: "That poor girl's going out with Winner."

    We were looking in an antique shop window. Paola said: "That's more an old china shop." I said: "Do you like old china?" She replied: "I'm going out with you, aren't I?" That shut me up.

  • *My campaign to honour the fallen police heroes, page 9

    Winner's letters

    Recounting his visit to the Ritz hotel last week, Michael Winner said he met "a squat man in a blue suit with no charm, who was abrupt and rude to him". At least the other squat man was dressed properly. It takes one to know one.
    Roy Salter, Surrey

    I've been going to the Ritz for 40 years. One of the reasons I continue to go is the maintenance of high sartorial standards among both its staff and its guests. When I next see the fellow who challenged you I will offer him my congratulations.
    Francis Brown, London

    You wrote last week that Paola is the love of your life and the only one who could get you up the aisle. Have you gone completely mad? Which woman with even half a brain would take you on?
    Dennis Pallis, Kent

    Let's cut through the bull about the Hinds Head at Bray. The oxtail and kidney pudding was served tepid and was a greasy mush encased in gluey dough. Why do we get fooled into paying high prices for rubbish like this just because the superchef across the road has opened a pub?
    Peter Hunt, Berkshire

    I share the same birthplace as Chris Rea (Winner's Dinners, April 17), so take exception to your dig at Middlesbrough. As for adding flavour to strawberry ice, nothing compared with an old-fashioned dash of sarsaparilla on ice cream at the parlour owned here by Chris's great uncle Sandy.
    Stan Rylett, Middlesbrough

    I'm not sure Mike Simpson (Winner's Letters, last week) got it right about Winner as boss of heaven. I think the words I saw on a tobacco box are more appropriate: "Heaven doesn't want me and hell is afraid I'll take over".
    Peter Van Stancomb, Dorset

    Your review last week of Fortnum and Mason's welsh rarebit was reasonably complete. I've eaten them myself. However, the best ones come from a little, Swiss-originated, tea room - Betty's Cafe -now in Harrogate, Ilkley, Northallerton and York. They have vintage Victorian waitresses, polite and efficient, with caring manners. Simply the best tea rooms ever. You don't come up north enough to witness such delights.
    Simon Reid, Paris

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