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A bright day overcast with doom and gloom

Published 25 March 2007
News Review
714th article

Michael in front of Simone Conti and Monika Feimaniene at Getti in London (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

Although I'm now walking aided only by two sticks (and sometimes one) it's felt safer for public outings that I go in a wheelchair.

So for my third restaurant visit, this time to Getti on Marylebone High Street, I took the Lynton-Edwards express. That is a wheelchair pushed though the streets by my nurse, Claudette.

Down Devonshire Place where I had the first sun on my face since January 1 in Barbados. Past Langan's Bistro and Odins, both closed as it was Saturday, and thence to Getti.

Waiting to greet us was the manager, Simone Conti. He led us to a large round table by picture windows overlooking the high street.

I'll divert here to say the one thing I most admire is professionalism. I've already mentioned the doom and gloom attitude of Monika Freimaniene, Getti's assistant manager. She very brusquely refused to sell food to Geraldine when she first visited.

Then Simone Conti took over. He was utterly charming and helpful and I've enjoyed a number of items from his menu, including braised beef with juniper berries, risotto with roast ham and creamed peas and their chicken liver pate, all superb. I decided to visit in person.

You might think if you come as a critic representing a paper of grace and sobriety and furthermore enter as a cripple, just as a simple act of professionalism Monika might have said, "Good morning, Mr Winner, welcome." No more was needed. She said nothing.

She greeted many other people. She went to the table next to us and asked, "Are you enjoying your pasta?" She never said to me, "Are you enjoying your grilled sole?"

"It's unbelievable," I commented to Geraldine. "Everyone is absolutely charming - Simone, the waitresses - but Monika is playing some strange game of her own."

"Perhaps she's afraid to talk to you," suggested Geraldine.

"You mean she thinks if she says, 'Good morning, welcome' I'll rise, demoniacal, from my wheelchair and bite her throat? I don't really think so," I responded.

I became gripped by this as the meal proceeded. Monika never said a word to me. As we left it was Simone who thanked us for coming and saw us out; Monika remained wrapped up elsewhere.

I'm sure some of you are saying, "There's Winner, always wants fawning over." No, a simple "welcome" would do.

Monika is typical of a large number of people in the totally mis-named hospitality industry. She's not hospitable. A professional restaurant manager doesn't decide, "I'll greet her, but ignore him." He or she gets on with the job.

Monika is safely with the majority of front-of-house restaurant employees who'd be better digging ditches or working in a factory. The one place they should not be is anywhere near the public.

Back to Getti: the ground floor is light and airy, white walls, a bar service area. There are more tables upstairs and downstairs and 18 tables outside, which, by the time we left, were nearly all occupied.

It's owned by a man who also has Zia Teresa opposite Harrods. This used to be very good indeed. When I last went it was beyond belief appalling. But this may have been before the Getti fellow took over.

My fish soup was not as tasty as some I've had in the south of France, but it was acceptable. My grilled sole with the inevitable horrid spinach was okay. Not a patch, in succulence or freshness of taste, on the sole served at Scalini.

Dessert was a triumph. I had berries with a mixed berry jelly around. It had some fancy Italian name, but a berry is a berry and a jelly is a jelly.

Then Simone gave us some Sardinian speciality which he couldn't spell the name of. It was a flaky pastry covered tart with ricotta cheese inside. If you want to know more about it visit Getti and ask yourself.

The customers all look like they come from a bus stop in Herefordshire. How the poor dears ended up in Marylebone I can't imagine. Perhaps they wanted to live closer to their medical specialists.

The top man running my case, the delightfully jovial Ian Murray Lyon, goes to Getti. Ian's the only doctor I know who never keeps you waiting. He's called in on me every day, without fail, since I moved in nine weeks ago.

By his name in my diary I've written "gastroenteritis". I guess that means he's got it or he treats it. Either way, I have no idea what it is.

  • Newsflash: Since I visited Getti eight days ago the manager Simone Conti has vanished and the dreaded Monika has taken over.

    Even I am speechless.

    Winner's letters

    I'm delighted you like to dine with casually dressed, slightly deranged people. I, however, have no choice, but would be honoured if your ambulance firm, Starship Enterprises or whatever they're now called, could wheel you into our canteen to join me and my friend Mad Dog Maguire in the secure wing at Broadmoor.
    Edward Evans, Brighton

    The Coupe de Flore in St Germain, Paris, is outrageously expensive for basic food such as croque monsieur or "le Welsh rarebit". It's where Trotsky mused, where Apollinaire wrote poetry, where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir discussed philosophy and where existentialism was born. We were thrown out of this bastion of freedom of thought and self expression - for playing Scrabble.
    Noel Alexander, Worcester

    Michael, oh Michael . . . Please put on a little more flesh, thin really does not suit you. You used to have a certain powerful magnetism, now you look like a scraggy old git.
    Pamela Meredith, East Sussex

    I do hope that your fight back to full health, vigour and inclination to challenge the dull and substandard is moving apace. We do all send our good wishes. Please surge back to scything through mere ciphers in positions of authority they do not merit.
    The Honourable Mrs Justice Rafferty DBE, Royal Courts of Justice, London