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My verdict on this place? One L of a nightmare

Published 5 March 2006
News Review
659th article

Michael standing next to Eddie Lim, left, and Graham Dobson (Joleene Mace)

Now I've seen everything. Never mind appalling food. Never mind bad service. Both of which I got at L Restaurant and Bar. What about either an attempt to swindle me, or negligence so bizarre that I was overcharged anyway!

I have a marvellous landlord, a gent of the old school named Graham Dobson.

"Landlord!" I hear you say, "Don't you even own your house?" I'll deal with that later. Let's stick with my lunch bill.

Graham and I both had the three-course set lunch at £16.50 plus a 12.5% service charge. So the food bill should have been £37.12 for two. When I got home I noticed I'd paid £43.87! You're saying: "Calm down, dear, it's only a difference of £6.75." So you don't mind paying 18% more than the menu price each time you go out. Is that it?

Instead of being charged for the three-course meal, we were charged £14 plus service each for the two-course lunch, and the goat's cheese ice creams - clearly on the three course lunch anyway - were charged as separate items at £5.50 each plus service.

I rang the owner, Eddie Lim, and made my feelings known. Not about how ghastly the goat's cheese ice creams were, but about him overcharging me.

Later I received his cheque for the whole meal. That didn't help.

I wasn't looking for a freebie. I simply wanted to pay the price announced on his menu. You'll be relieved to hear that, eventually, I got my £6.75 back! I bought a new Rolls-Royce Phantom with it.

Now to my house. I have a lease on my historic Grade II* listed mansion built by the famous Victorian architect Norman Shaw for the painter Sir Luke Fildes. I'm leaving it, with all my paintings and antiques, to the nation as a museum. It's already on many of the tours of London. My executors will buy the freehold when I'm six foot under.

L Restaurant and Bar, a silly name if ever there wasn't one, is off Kensington High Street in premises once occupied by a place called Trattoo, which was quite good. I stopped going there some 20 years ago after I took Burt Lancaster one evening.

Burt was served a main course he hadn't ordered. He rightly went berserk. But he must have liked it because the next night he tried to book and the miserable Italian restaurant manager wouldn't let him in. Total impertinence.

Thereafter the place fell into further disaster and many owners. Recently it has been redesigned (badly) and Mr Lim is offering a load of old rubbish.

In case you're saying, "Just because he was inadvertently overcharged Winner's giving 'em hell!" may I point out that the brilliant and serious food writer Fay Maschler, who may or may not have been overcharged, said the only likeable item she ate there was wok-fried spinach. She did better than me. I didn't like anything.

We ordered soup of the day, pumpkin and orange with vanilla cream. I added pepper to try and wring out a taste. The best Graham could say was: "It's a nice colour, isn't it?"

For my main course I listened to the waitress, invariably a mistake, when she said: "The squid's very good on this menu."

It wasn't. I got two large grilled squid beside a mound of spring onion and chorizo risotto. The squid tasted of nothing at all. The risotto was heavy and clammy.

Eddie Lim explained the chef had worked at the three-Michelin-starred El Bulli in Spain. "He's quite innovative," he added. Thus giving new meaning to the word innovative.

Graham and I bravely ventured on to the goat's cheese ice cream with honey and walnuts. The waitress asked: "What did you think of the goat's cheese ice cream?"

I replied: "I suggest someone teaches the chef about chocolate and vanilla." My espresso was cold. I said to Graham: "Is your coffee cold?" Graham's very reserved. Very British. He replied: "No, but it's not hot."

To add insult to insult they didn't take American Express. This was just before pin and pin or whatever it is became compulsory. That was a nightmare. I had no idea what my pin number was.

I've now found out, and no, I won't tell you.

So I handed the L-girl my MasterCard and asked: "Where do I sign?" She said: "You don't need to sign. I just bypassed that."

"They could take my house from me!" I said to Graham. "You could end up landlord to Eddie Lim."

"I don't think he'd be as interesting as you," said Graham. Now there's a wonderful man. Polite. Stylish. Exemplary. I bet your landlord's not as nice as my landlord.

Winner's letters

You said you remained friends with all your ex-girlfriends (Winner's Dinners, February 19). You and I had a one-night stand back in 1969 and I haven't heard a word from you since. At least take me out to dinner. No need to impress with Petrus 1989. A pint of snakebite will do.
Norris Harrington, Cork

Your blatant admission last week that you and John Cleese decided to go to bed together on New Year's Eve is a revelation you needn't have shared. My heart goes out to Geraldine who must have been heartbroken, let alone Mrs Cleese's feelings of rejection. My husband said it would explain Mr Cleese's funny walk.v Susan Shack, Norfolk

You said last week you missed the New Year's Eve fireworks. Yet there you are posing with May and Anton dressed up as Widow Twankey. Was the panto before or after the pre-war veggies?
Val Phelps, East Yorkshire

How presumptuous of you to be seated in last week's photo in the presence of a lady as well as a peer of the realm. Your manners have slipped further than your boobs.
Ian Hearn, Leicestershire

Is your rapid turnover of lady friends because they can't keep up with your appetite? Or is it the other way round? Do you dismiss them if their appetite is larger than yours?
Damaris Jane Thomas, by e-mail

In your haste to exit your ageing Bentley and place your nose in the trough at the Capital hotel (Winner's Dinners, February 19) you almost knocked my disabled mother out of her wheelchair. If the menu was too "prissy-dissy" for your uneducated palate, go to your local greasy spoon. And you weren't the "best-dressed kid on the block". I was.
John Brockwitz, Westminster

As we were finishing our pudding at Angela Hartnett's Connaught restaurant we were horrified when staff brought out industrial cables and irons to press tablecloths for the evening. There were still four tables occupied and this was noisy and obtrusive, made worse by the rudeness from a staff member when we complained. The food was superlative, the staff mediocre and arrogant. We won't return.
Janey Nolan, London

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