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The often hair-raising world of me and my motors

Published 25 June 2006
News Review
675th article



Michael with Darren Campbell and Paola outside the Black Horse (Trace Buggins)

Nestling behind me and Princess in our photo is my 2001 Saab 9-3 Aero Convertible. It's done 4,629 miles in more than five years, many when the chauffeur takes it out for exercise.

We're at the Black Horse in Ireland. Not Ireland, Ireland. Ireland, Bedfordshire. In my desperate hunt for a good English Sunday lunch I ventured into our idyllic countryside to see what the strange people who live out of London eat.

The Saab's a pleasant cur. Not too many knobs and gadgets. A smooth ride. I like it. Except for one thing. There are two tiny, and silly, back passenger lights set in the frame. These keep falling out. They're "mended" by Saab. They fall out again. I'm driving along enjoying the fresh air and I hear "clonk-clonk-clonk". Behind me, on the end of a wire, a light is dangling.

This happened on my way back from Bedfordshire. I wrote in considerable angst to Keith Taylor, head of Saab City in east London. He's kind of chief salesman for Saab. Let's just say if I was taking on executives, he certainly wouldn't get a job.

I liked his predecessor. Keith never even answers my letters. I asked him if this was a known fault. His service manager, Patrick O'Mahony, said it wasn't a known fault but he'd heard of it happening before. Figure that out!

After Patrick was shown my irate letter by Keith, he decided to change both the fitting and the light on the driver side. On my next trip the light fell our of its socket on the passenger side! I now hold it in with Plasticine.

The Black Horse is run by dad Jim Campbell (who wasn't there) and son Darren, who was kneeling on the floor taking an order from a customer. He didn't kneel to take my order. He stood. Bloody cheek!

He was dressed in black, very pleasant. The room was pleasant, the pub was pleasant. I was pleasant. Princess was, as ever, phenomenal.

"Tell me about the pork," I said to Darren.

"It's being served from the Davies and Davies farm in Haynes, the neighbouring village," he explained.

"You have crackling with it?" I asked.

Darren said. "Do you want extra crackling'?"

"You know I do," I replied.

Princess ordered Canadian black cod served with pancetta. They had fantastic, big pieces of wonderful. warm bread. I dipped it in something which looked like olive oil with pesto.

"I don't normally like pesto." I observed.

"It's not pesto. that's why you like it." said Princess. For once she was wrong. It was pesto. A total miracle. I recognised a food ingredient.

"The bread is made here," said the waitress, adding very loudly, "everything is home-made."

"She obviously thinks I'm completely deaf," I whispered to Princess.

In the excitement I forgot to drink my Pimm's, which was excellent. You couldn't have a better Pimm's.

"This really is a very good place," I observed.

Princess had French onion soup, which was fine. I've had better in France, but it was definitely good. I had mussels in a sort of sauce. I liked them.

Princess enjoyed her cod. My pork had an enormous amount of crackling with it and stuffing. But the pork didn't taste of much. The roast potatoes were excellent.

Princess observed, "You can tell if they've let them get cold and then re-fried them. These are fresh."

There were enormous amounts of cabbage, beans, mangetout - all beautifully cooked.

"For dessert," the waitress announced. "we've got apple crumble served with a choice of cream. ice cream or custard and a poached pear with a blackcurrant sorbet, or chilled rhubarb and Grand Marnier souffle. The rhubarb is part of the souffle."

"Give me some crumble now and bring the souffle when it's ready. I'll just have cream because I'm having two desserts." I said. Princess chose the poached pear.

The crumble was superb though I got custard not cream. which I'd ordered. The souffle was like a cold blancmange.

Princess said. "It's a citrus mousse." I ate it anyway. "Nice," said Princess, trying a bit, "quite fluffy."

When I presented Darren with my American Express card, which doesn't have stick and pin, he put it in a funny little machine and said. "Would you press the green button?" I did. Then he said, "Would you press the red button?"

"This is mechanic's work," I observed.

The bill ex-service was £70.20. I added £20 because they were all very quick. Outside the chef took our photo. He's called Trace Buggins. Good name, that.

I threatened, "If the photo doesn't come out I'm going to say the pork was dreadful." I didn't have to.



Winner's letters

The Australian restaurant manager in charge of Eight over Eight, whom you criticised last week, may only have been in England for two weeks, but he should have recognised you as a mate. Aussies are full of bulldust, dress appallingly, wear shoulder chips the size of planks, whine while they dine and display excess ego at all times. Onya Michael!
Graham Thomas, Queensland, Australia

Like you I waited (in my case twice) over an hour for food at Chelsea's Eight over Eight. So I vowed never to return to their e&o restaurant in Notting Hill, which I used to enjoy. Serve them right!
Luke Jensen, London

Did you really mean, last week, King Edward VII had his portrait painted in your bedroom? How odd. And was that a bulletproof jacket you were wearing under the "Perry" chandelier? Or an old suit from days when you still had the extra 2½ stone of bon viveur?
Jackie Curbishley, Malaga

I disagree with Michael Carey's letter last week. Let Mr Winner use the word "toilet" if he wants. It's a word recognised t throughout the world. Only a few snobs and the National Trust still say "lavatory". And how about a "be nice to Michael Winner" week? There must be some letters that aren't insulting Anyway, he makes me laugh.
Donald Townshend, London

I confess to being one of those dreadful out-of-towners you amusingly despise who visit the Ritz for a treat. We were treated splendidly despite our suburban clothes! My husband, who has a muscle wasting condition, found it difficult to raise his arms sufficiently to enjoy his cream tea in the Palm Court with the weight of the sports jacket over his shirt. He should have called on you to borrow that natty, lightweight silk number you wore when photographed! You really are an incorrigible man - but we still love you.
Helen Clayton, Pembrokeshire

At Richard Corrigan's Lindsay House we waited half an hour before drinks or bread arrived. Our waitress was severe, verging on rudeness. When booking I explained it was my daughters 18th birthday. They said they'd bake a cake. When we inquired about this, they denied it. We were told they'd write to us. They didn't!
Jack Bell, Essex

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