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The star of the show, until I'm eclipsed by Turkish delight

Published 29 January 2006
News Review
654th article

Michael stands behind Dinah May and Alan Boyle at Izgara (Serdar Sahin)

Does the week start on Sunday or Monday? That's always baffled me. If it's Monday then last week, as a longstanding fully paid-up member of British Actor's Equity, I performed.

On Tuesday I was outstanding as Lord Michael Jagged and also American chocolate manufacturer Billy Bonker in a DVD mystery thriller game for a nice man called Richard Pain. I think I was murdered, because I ended up lying on the carpet.

On Thursday I starred in a commercial, massively on television yesterday and Friday. For this I travelled north, through St John's Wood (horrible place, ridiculous people), then Hampstead (pleasant but crowded), then Golders Green (a total delight), continuing via Hendon (where my uncle Phil used to live) to my destination, Finchley (gently bizarre).

My Winnebego caravan was parked in the unit base, a farmyard. Yes, there is a farm in Finchley!

I changed into my dinner suit, was made up by my personal make-up man, Alan Boyle, and coiffured by my personal hairdresser, Dinah May. That's how we stars do it.

I was then driven to a large reception room, which, the commercial producer explained, "has seen more bar mitzvahs than you've had hot dinners". There I slaved until the lunch break when Dinah, Alan and I wandered into Hendon Lane and found a Turkish restaurant, Izgara.

I was expecting very little. Miraculously, I enjoyed one of the best meals I've ever had, accompanied by exemplary service.

Izgara is historic. Its high-back chairs look like modern versions of those designed by Rennie Mackintosh. Clean appearance, unframed paintings of sunsets and skies. Jolly Turkish music came unobtrusively from loudspeakers.

Turkish mineral water with ice and lemon was produced instantly in tumblers. Most restaurants, ridiculously, serve water in wine glasses.

Then excellent, warm home-made bread. I ordered hummus - chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic. Tarama - a freshly prepared cod roe pate. Cacik - cucumber in creamy yoghurt sauce. Patlican tava - fried aubergine and green peppers with yoghurt and tomato. Falafel - lightly fried chickpeas, parsley, onions and coriander. Beyaz penir - Turkish feta cheese. Ispanak tarator - fresh spinach with creamy yoghurt. And Atlana kofte - a spicy minced kebab grilled on skewers, served with salad. It was all beyond belief tasty. It came in a very few minutes without fuss.

Dinah tucked a paper napkin under my neck to cover my bow tie and shirt. She's seen the damage I can do. Being the ultimate professional I'd brought another identical shirt and bow tie anyway.

The falafel was light and cheerful. Everything was beautifully presented. Fresh is the key word. Dinah ate a big green chilli pepper. I tried the fried aubergine, which I usually hate. It was sensational. Alan then had the other chilli pepper.

"Typical of the staff to eat everything," I observed. "We could ask for another one for you," offered Dinah. But the waiter, hearing our conversation, was already getting a plate full. The waiter was so good, when he saw me trying to open my glasses, which had got stuck, he just picked them up and sorted it out.

My dessert baklava was far and away the best ever. It can be chewy. This was flaky with a fantastic flavour. A fresh pear cooked in syrup with nuts and blobs of cream was perfect.

"This is wonderful," observed Alan of his milk pudding with ground almonds, pistachio and cinnamon. "Mind you, we are in a very good area," said Dinah. "No, we're not, dear," I corrected. "The area's all right. Not good."

I tried a bit of Alan's pudding. A delight. Alan said to Dinah: "Finish it off."

"Very generous, Alan," I said, "considering there's nothing left in the bowl."

Dinah scraped at it anyway.

The waiter even brought the bill in seconds. For three people it came to £39. I added a tip of £15. The waiter took a few steps, turned and said in quiet amazement: "Fifteen pounds?" I waved my arms in a "yes". He was worth it.

Now came our photo. Dinah said: "That'll teach me not to have brushed my hair."

"Unbelievable," I muttered. "She thinks she's on a modelling assignment."

Serdar Sahin, that's the waiter's name, also took a perfectly good photo. I've never had better service anywhere in my life. As we left Dinah said: "I don't mind paying if it's like that."

"Since you're not paying I don't know what you're talking about," I responded.

We were back on the set easily within the hour given for lunch.

  • PS: Alan Boyle made up Lee Marvin, Tony Hopkins, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Albert Finney as well as Michael Winner. "I haven't really retired," he explained, "I just don't want stress and long hours any more." Amazingly, that's why he works for me.

    Winner's letters

    Last week's photo of you being marched off the BA flight to Barbados shows everyone smiling except you. What was the matter? Handcuffs too tight?
    Norman Vincent, Hertfordshire

    Seeing you being arrested by three prison officers, I looked forward to your essays on the culinary delights of Wandsworth jail and other such establishments. Then I realised it was the BA cabin crew taking you to another exotic location. Oh well, I can still dream.
    Dick Coppard, East Sussex

    Who are these dullards writing last week who failed to recognise your natty beach attire! Where did the shirt come from? Please, send me yours! I'm sure you don't want to upset your fickle readers by wearing it any more.
    Adam Hodge, Oxfordshire

    BA's Jose Linan didn't put your jacket in a plastic cover to protect it. He put it in a plastic rubbish sack for destruction. Can BA destroy unwanted, shabby garments for anyone? Or is the service confined to "a pleasing class of celebrity" only?
    Carol Day, Southampton

    Doesn't one of your minions own an iron? In last week's photo your trousers, jacket and shirt looked as if you'd slept in them. For one so rich and famous you are a sartorial disaster. No doubt if any of your staff came to work dressed like you their services would be swiftly dispensed with.
    Joan Kennedy, Coventry

    What a joy to see the great man taking a swim in the Thames. The crowds were enormous. You even showed off by sending water up in the air from your snorkel. Obviously your Caribbean holiday rejuvenated you. Pity about the end result.
    Mike Clement, Suffolk

    You did well with the food on your flight. I couldn't get a refill of coffee, let alone more cream. I walked to the plane, while you were driven. My jacket was screwed up in the overhead locker, not placed on a hanger in a wardrobe. Go unannounced on a holiday flight and give us your take on the food, the drunk behind you, the screaming brats opposite and the trolley dolly who has two eyes, neither of which swivel in your direction.
    Ian Johnson, Suffolk

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