Published 7 January 2007 News Review 703rd article
Michael with Paola and Bibi at Morelli's (Dinah May)
I've made a serious contribution to the delights of dining. No, not by agreeing to stay home for the rest of the year. I've improved the Wolseley milkshakes.
My vanilla milkshake was nice. "Needs thickening," I observed to Robert Holland, their superb restaurant manager.
"Do you think we should put an extra ice cream in?" he asked.
"Definitely," I said.
Next time I had one it was near-historic. "Does everyone get an extra ice cream, or just me?" I asked boss Jeremy King. "Everyone," he said.
I don't consider myself a world expert on food. "You know (expletive) nothing!" I hear my dear friend Gordon Ramsay say. But I do consider myself of unparalleled skill when it comes to judging ice cream, milkshakes, cakes in general and most sweet things.
For a long time my lovely ex-girlfriend the Princess (aka Paola Lombard) sung the praises of Morelli's Gelato, which sells ice cream, sundaes and all things nice on the ground floor at Harrods. I tasted their ice cream when dining with Mohamed al-Fayed in Harrods' supremely elegant Georgian restaurant. They've got one of the best buffets ever.
The Morelli's ice was delightfully rich and creamy. So Paola and I visited their downstairs bar. Bibi Morelli flew in from Monte Carlo to greet me. This is a minimum distance owners should travel to make me happy.
Bibi's dad started the business in 1907 selling ice cream from the back of a bicycle in Broadstairs, Kent. Bibi, now aged 32, was a solicitor specialising in banking law. She worked at Clifford Chance, a major firm.
Three years ago the lure of ice cream was so great she left to join the family firm. "I've got some chewing gum on my heel," I announced as I mounted a stool.
"That was from outside Morelli's," Bibi said speedily.
I declined malt in my vanilla milkshake. We ordered two hot fudge sundaes and for my assistant, Dinah, a berry pavlova sundae. It took me back to 1953 when I first went to America and found heaven at a Howard Johnson ice cream parlour. From war-torn England to 55 varieties of ice cream - what a trip!
The Morelli's milkshake is very creamy, very rich. Delicious. I was given a mecroche dressing. Immensely syrupy, unbelievably rich.
I kept dropping blobs of everything everywhere. "I need more napkins!" I wailed, "I've had 23, that's not enough."
Then I got a red chilli sorbet which was quite revolting. Bibi said, "It's very good for St Valentine's Day. We do it like an aphrodisiac, ice cream, chilli and chocolate."
Princess advised, "Lean in so you can taste the fudge ice cream."
"It's an obstacle course," I observed reaching for another napkin, "I'm up to 33 napkins now!"
"Next time you come in we'll stock up on them," said Bibi, adding, "our counter is made from a hundred pieces of Italian marble shipped over."
Paola said, "The testament to how good this is, I was really full and I've eaten the whole ice cream. It was more than ice cream." I can confirm she was full. We'd just had a terrific lunch nearby at Scalini. They do the best grilled dover sole in London.
I can't remember how many things I tasted at Morelli's. I even tried an iced cake. This was all disaster for a man on a diet. But in the evening I returned to freshly made apple juice and a water biscuit.
Other venues for great ice cream include the Harbour Bar in Scarborough. It's done out in 1950s style. Like a diner. A magical place.
Marine Ices in Chalk Farm is right up there. Charlie Chaplin used to go straight from the plane to eat their ice cream.
At the beach end of the pier in Paignton was a massively memorable ice cream stall. But that was 1963 when I was making a movie. It may not still be there.
The best chocolate ice cream ever is at San Lorenzo. I always have two scoops for my dessert. It's totally remarkable.
The best mint sorbet I ever had was at the Locanda Cipriani on Torcello in the Venetian lagoon.
I'm even extremely fond of a good old, common Wall's chocolate covered vanilla ice on a stick. They used to have them on sale in theatre intermissions. Now they go for those horrid plastic tubs with an absurd little spoon. Not the same.
Give me a plonk of ice cream, a nice frothy milkshake, dessert biscuits from the Wolseley - and I'm happy. Then I get on the scales and I'm suicidal. There's no such thing as free ice cream, is there?
I sympathise with Mr Winner over his horror story. Why should Mr De Stefano (Winner's Letters, last week) think he has a right to intrude on Mr Winner's holiday by going up and discussing one of his articles?
Nicholas Mead, Los Angeles
I was so pleased you said, "Political correctness is the biggest disaster to strike this country since the bubonic plague." Keep saying it please, for those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad!
John McDowell, Norfolk
I enjoyed your list of top 10 restaurants last week. Where are your worst 10 establishments. Are they responsible for your weight loss. Where are they?
Christine Martin, Cambridgeshire
I presume Mr Winner has reached the halfway stage of his publicised diet. He informs us he's had 40 jackets taken in with no mention of trousers.
Edward Evans, Brighton
Last week's headline contained the words, "rotten misses". For some reason there has never been a rotten miss in any or your photographs.
Barry Denton-MacLennan, Stevenage