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Great dining memories? Goat gets my vote

Published 4 February 2007
News Review
707th article

Michael with Bruno and Marion Cirino at Hostellerie Jerome (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

I sit here in the London Clinic surrounded by letters and cards. One says, "Dear Michael, I was so sorry to hear of your adventure in Barbados. It is not the thing to happen on holiday. I hope you and the leg are fully intact now you are back in London. Good luck. Yours ever, Tony." That's Tone, of course. I've always viewed him as a friend, even though I don't donate to the Labour party and I rejected his OBE.

I immensely appreciate people who have written, some of whom know me slightly or not at all, or are just admirers. I haven't spoken to anybody since being in hospital other than to Geraldine and Dinah.

I've just had a very acceptable cream of vegetable soup. Not one of the gastronomic moments of my life but creditable. In such circumstances -where the views stay much the same, day and night are hardly identifiable and the only change is when they push you along corridors on trolleys for another test or operation -one's mind swings to more entertaining memories.

One of the greatest meals I've ever had was curried goat on the beach in Jamaica in 1974 while on reconnaissance for a movie. I've not seen it since on any menu. So I was surprised at the posh Metropole hotel in Monaco - when I visited it with Sir Roger and Lady Kristina Moore - that there, sitting as the speciality of the day in their Joel Robuchon restaurant, was roast baby goat with mashed potato!

The restaurant manager steered Roger well away from the goat so I decided I'd definitely taste it. I'm glad I did. It was the main event of a superb, but very slowly served, meal. The wait for the main course was unbelievable.

I said, "I like the food thrown at me quickly," to which Kristina wisely replied, "That's perhaps because you don't drink so much wine." These little bits of chopped-up goat with mashed potato were as memorable as the ones in Jamaica. This is a dish London's newer restaurants could well adopt.

In the hills high above Monte Carlo, in a picturesque village called La Turbie, is probably my favourite restaurant in the south of France, the Hostellerie Jerome. It's run by Bruno and Marion Cirino.

Marion frightened me dreadfully at first. She's a very organised French hostess who walks, school mistress-like, around the dining room. But in fact she's a delight. Her husband Bruno, who has two Michelin stars, provides absolutely marvellous food which is not overworked or overdecorated.

I was there three times not long ago, first with Gerard de Thame, a rather more serious director of commercials than me. But then he doesn't act in them!

The restaurant is in an 18th-century building, very classy and with beautiful wall paintings. I had roast langoustine with foie gras and potimarron, which is a kind of small pumpkin with a chestnut taste. We also had a freebie starter of duck in pastry served with rocket sauce and salad. I finished with the mille feuille wild strawberries, lemon sorbet and some petit fours.

I returned with the impresario Adam Kenwright to try a pigeon that looked like pigeon. You could see the breast and the leg, both with delicious sauce.

Although it is two Michelin stars, the hostellerie food doesn't look like someone has spent hours and hours cutting things up and messing them about to be sure they no longer resemble anything at all.

Then I went a third time with television executive Ben Frow. I had foie gras with figs and medallion de veau, artichokes and olive oil. I've never eaten anything at the Hostellerie Jerome that was not delicate, delicious and memorable.

I also ate at Pulchinella, which is squeezed between what look like not very posh council blocks in Monte Carlo. But then the whole of Monte Carlo looks like council blocks. Chris Rea says all the racing drivers go there. I once went with Rod Stewart who'd just smashed four cars. That qualifies him as a racing driver.

Thank goodness my hero Tone has not succumbed to European labour laws yet. Things are so difficult that the hotel Reserve de Beaulieu serves no dinner on Monday night in order to contain the hours staff have to work.

I also had a number of dinners at La Chaumiere on the Grand Corniche, a rustic farmhouse which is historic beyond belief. One of these was with Sir Michael and Lady Shakira Caine and Sir Elton John and David Furnish. They, like Tone, have also kindly written to me in hospital.

Give them hell at the election, Tone! You'll easily get in ahead of that Conservative tailor's dummy they've put a voice box to. What do you mean, you're not standing? I can't believe it! Nobody tells me anything! You could seriously say I was not in the swim.

Winner's letters

A great picture last Sunday, Michael. You look like the Beverly Sisters.
David Noseda, London

Seeing you in bed in a nightie, I was reminded of Arthur Lucan. Older readers may recall Lucan's portrayal of a harridan of an Irish washerwoman - "Old Mother Riley" - in a series of best-forgotten films. Back on your feet might you consider writing, directing and starring in an "Old Mother Winner" series?
Ron Pearson, West Yorkshire

I have enjoyed reading Michael's advice for many years, from investing to which restaurant or hotel to visit, and one thing really stands out - the man never misses a week. No flimsy excuses, no "is on vacation" and even serious illness doesn't stop the flow of entertainment. Now that is what I call a journalist!
John Sprinzel, Molokai, Hawaii

As the back page of the Review is the first column I read in The Sunday Times. I was saddened as I am sure many of your fans are to see you laying in bed. However, as you are being more than adequately looked after by two of the country's most beautiful women, I wondered if you would like to sub contract the reviews to my services, at your cost of course.
Maurice Rutland Hubert, Wiltshire

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