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The palpable hits and rotten misses of 2006

Published 31 December 2006
News Review
702nd article



Geraldine Lynton-Edwards on Lake Como (Arnold Crust)

Guess who said this: "Yea from the table of my memory, I'll wipe away all trivial fond records."

No, it wasn't Ken Dodd.

Nor Nigella Lawson. It was him. You know, William Shakespeare. Part of Hamlet.

Don't know who spoke it. Could have been that nutty bimbo who did herself in.

Could have been the ghost, or Hamlet's mum. Or the butler. Or Willy Wonka.

Either way, it must be profound because it's Shakespeare. Personally I think it's a load of old tosh. I mean, why wipe away all "trivial fond records". They're nice. I love a bit of trivia. Who's bonking who? What restaurant screwed up with what major league celeb? Who did what and when? Nothing wrong with a bit of gossip.

I was thinking of doing a meaningful, end-of-year summing up of what 2006 meant to me. Then I decided nothing profound happened. When did it ever? Got the esure commercials back.

Lost 7in round the waist.

Wrote a diet book. Brought joy to the world. That's enough for 12 months, isn't it? Don't sneer. What did you do?

An article in The New York Times recently offered its readers a very fetching colour photo of me. Someone called Sarah Lyall wrote: "Winner may be on the far side of obnoxious (I resemble that remark) but he is very much the star of his own show."

Why not? Who else could be star of my show? Woman's a bit daft.

Ms Lyall went on, "Restaurants fear him and cater to his demands." I should hope so too. Then she quoted a PR woman who represents famous restaurants (I won't give her publicity by mentioning her name) saying, "Winner's an opinionated old man who's got a lot of money and no class. Yet restaurants obsess over a bad review by him."

That's brilliant, isn't it? A PR woman, whose clients obviously hope I'll give them a good review, goes out of her way to slag me off. In the old days they said the idiot of the family went into the church. Today the idiot of the family goes into public relations.

Change of subject. A question I'm often asked both personally and through your e-mails and letters (so many, sadly, I don't have time to answer) is: "What's your favourite restaurant?" Or, "It's Uncle Fred's 60th wedding anniversary, where should we go?"

Cut this out for future reference. Where I go, spending my own money as I'm not reimbursed by this newspaper, indicates clearly what I think is best. I now list my top 10, all in London, with (in brackets) the number of times I visited them in the last 18 months: Wolseley (35), Ivy (19), Scalini (16), River Cafe (14), Caprice (12), e&o (10), San Lorenzo (10), Cecconi's (8), Assaggi (5), Bombay Brasserie (4). So, for me, the Wolseley is the best overall dining experience.

I'd like to say the worst is the Petersham Nurseries Cafe, but it wouldn't be quite true. Even though my two conversations with their manager, Rachel Lewis, remain the most appalling example of non-charm and surliness I've ever encountered.

Another newspaper, interviewing Ms Lewis, wrote, "She was unable to accommodate his party of eight." That's a joke. I booked for two people. After two phone calls the booking was accepted. Then I decided I didn't want to be in a room with someone as unwelcoming as Ms Lewis so I called back and cancelled. The adorable Geraldine Lynton-Edwards and I (a party of two for those who can count) went to the superb River Cafe instead.

Into this bizarrely remembered event comes the Petersham Nurseries excellent chef, Skye Gyngell, who was reported saying, "To accommodate Michael Winner we'd have had to ring people and and chuck them off." But I was accommodated, Skye. I accepted a table for two.

You didn't have to ring anyone to achieve that. Customers were dining outside. If needed, there was ample space for an extra table. Obviously Skye's better in the kitchen than with facts.

When I bash someone I often think, "Was I right?" Well, the number of letters we got about rude staff at the PNC (including Ms Gyngell) clearly showed I wasn't alone in my opinion!

I'll end 2006 by giving you a treat which you may, or may not, deserve. Instead of the joy of seeing my photo each week, usually taken by the poshly named Geraldine Lynton-Edwards, I step aside to give you, unadulterated, a photo of the lovely Geraldine. Taken by me on Lake Como.

A nice memory of 2006.

Have a great 2007. I wish you health above all. See you next year.



Winner's letters

I was lunching at Daphne's restaurant, Barbados, which Mr Winner described as a "carbuncle". I thought they did a pretty good job in the circumstances. As I left who should be hobbling along the beach but the great carbuncle himself. I approached him to discuss his comments only to be firmly told to go away as he could not talk and walk at the same time. Surely, even at his age that shouldn't be difficult!
John De Stefano, London

We were dining at Sandy Lane's famous L'Acajou restaurant when to our dismay the pungent smell of curry wafted up from the Bajan Blue restaurant below. I hope you're not being so afflicted.
Joanna Smith, Northamptonshire

Down in the New Forest we have to go to the local post office to collect our papers. My husband returned with The Sunday Times. "You didn't bring News Review!" I yelled. We returned to the post office to be told, "Everyone's complaining. They didn't send it." "But I can't spend Sunday without Michael Winner!" I said. You seem to inspire near apoplexy in most of your readers, so I thought you'd like to know that here on the south coast you've become an institution akin to Sunday lunch!
Sally Fox, Hampshire

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