Published 29 October 2006 News Review 693rd article
Michael and Paola at Tom's Deli & Cafe (Dinah May)
It's very simple. If you've got your health, shut up! Don't complain. Get on with it!
Towards the end of last year the Princess (aka Paola Lombard) had cancer and a double mastectomy. That was only part of her health problems.
Although she possessed memorable, and, dare I say it, gloriously large bosoms, I thought she looked even better without them. My friend, photographer supreme Terry O'Neill, agreed that she was more beautiful, adding, "Audrey Hepburn had no bosoms!"
Paola has suffered greatly and still does. But she's the most delightful and witty person. She takes her problems far better than I would. It being breast cancer awareness month Paola wanted to do her bit and go in a run, but she wasn't strong enough.
She suggested I draw attention to the cause by having her photographed in the cancer T-shirt. For that we had to enjoy a meal together. Princess chose Tom's Deli & Cafe in Notting Hill. This is not any old joint. It's owned by Sir Terence Conran's son, is extremely buzzy and exceptionally good.
There's a site going in Kensington High Street near the junction with my road. I wish Tom would open there. Travelling two miles to Westbourne Grove is quite exhausting.
At Tom's I saw "specially baked handmade sausage rolls", £2 each. Were I not on a diet I'd have scoffed one on the way in! Then I passed a selection of home-made cakes which had me slavering.
They'd kept a booth for me, my assistant Dinah and Princess. I was told they weren't licensed so I should descend to the basement deli to buy the wine.
At my request the waitress went down. I thought, "Maybe Dinah should have gone, she's very fussy about her wine." When nothing much happened, I decided to investigate.
At that point a man appeared saying, "It's lovely," and holding a bottle of 2003 Bourgogne Roncevie, £15.95. He added, "You have to pay for it downstairs. Then you can bring it up and drink it."
I observed, "As the bottle's here already perhaps you could carry the money down and save me a journey."
They've got a wonderful menu, I'd like to try everything. But they should increase the size of the booths by 50%.
Princess ordered a mix of fresh grapefruit and orange juice. They do it there and then. I had orange juice. We all chose the smoky roast tomato, aubergine and chickpea soup.
The brown and white bread arrived. Paola said, "The bread is totally fresh.
Delicious, isn't it?" I'd describe it as robust.
The soup was remarkable. I dictated, "If I knew anything about food I could describe this. It's really very, very good."
"Very Italian," added Princess. "You could eat this in a Tuscan morning in the middle of Italy." Is Tuscany in the middle of Italy? Could be.
The restaurant manager, Sophie Taylor, wasn't there to greet me. She appeared late saying she'd been tasting Portuguese delights with Rainer Santo (whoever he is) at Borough Market. How can that take precedence over showing me to a booth?
I suddenly realised why I was so cramped. Next to Princess was her enormous rucksack. "Going on a round-the-world trek are you, dear?" I asked benignly. She shifted it next to Dinah who was sitting opposite. The booth still needed enlarging. And I'm three-and-a-half stone thinner. Before slimming I'd have rolled off onto the floor.
I'd ordered parmesan encrusted chicken with potato gratin and green beans and, to taste, boboti (minced lamb) with salad. They were fine.
For dessert I went berserk. I served myself a piece of lemon crunch cake, chocolate biscuit cake, carrot and pineapple cake, and stem ginger cake. All this held up a man waiting for a fruit flapjack. "Had 'em before?" I asked. He assured me he had and they were superb.
This inspired me to add a raspberry meringue to my overflowing plate. "The meringue I make is better," said Dinah. Tom's was still good.
I found Princess's pancakes a bit heavy. She added a lot of maple syrup. Dinah had red berry and frangipane tart. That, we agreed, was the best.
Then we walked a few doors down to Nicole Farhi's cafe at 202 Westbourne Grove because Princess particularly likes their coffee. We drank some sitting on the pavement.
On our way to the Rolls a paparazzo appeared, flashing away.
"Unbelievable!" I thought as his car sped off. It was as if he'd just got Madonna bathing the African baby in ass's milk in a portable gold tub. Actually he had Princess, me and Dinah. Even better.
Your eyesight is failing with old age. Last week's photo showed us not the founder of Tetou, but an oil portrait of your old friend Charlie Bronson!
Marcia Yates, Hertfordshire
At Trattoria Nostrani in Santa Fe the owner, having first welcomed us, then asked us to leave immediately! He said he ran a "fragrance-free restaurant" and my wife's perfume was too much for him! She wears a delicate perfume and I don't use aftershave. If this is the best Santa Fe can offer, it stinks!
Michael Austin, Pinner
You were lucky at the Notting Hill Brasserie. A man claiming to be the owner came over 45 minutes after we'd finished our starters and informed us the kitchen had forgotten to prepare our main courses!
Christine Townley, London
You wrote last week of the difference in having just-squeezed orange juice at Tetou. Recently in Crete wherever we ate the juice was freshly squeezed. What bliss. Now I know why you go on about it!
Lene Orchard, Buckinghamshire
At St David's hotel, Cardiff, three large vodkas and cola were £36, including 15% service. What service? I carried them from bar to table myself!
Peter Mackarel, Chester
Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST or e-mail michael.winner@ sunday times.co.uk