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Thar's gold in them thar middle-class suburbs

Published 24 June 2007
News Review
727th article

Michael with his chief assistant Dinah May at La Trompette in West London (Edward Allsopp)

In the old days, before the American west became cluttered with freeways and skyscrapers, they'd say, "Go west, young man." Thus encouraging folk to set out from east coast to west.

Another saying was, "The pioneers got shot by the Indians," indicating it was better to get in second or third, after other, braver hearts had opened up the territory.

I went west recently. Stuck in traffic outside the Olympia I pined for the open plains. Static in more hold-ups at the Hammersmith roundabout I cursed my decision to visit La Trompette. Driving down King Street in Hammersmith is not my idea of a laugh.

Eventually we turned left down a neat suburban street and there it was. I wouldn't say this part of London has become gentrified. More middle class-ified. Everybody looks like an estate agent or a young mother hoping for better things.

La Trompette was surprisingly pleasant. A very nice room indeed, tables spaced well apart, parquet floor, simple, one wall, all glass, looking onto mini shops and boutiques. There's a little hedge outside allowing a row of tables on the pavement.

My chief assistant, Dinah, immediately asked for a glass of "Puligny Montrachet Noyer Brets . . ." the label went on and on. They asked if she wanted a small or large glass. She responded, "Large." That's £17 plus 12.5% service. The set lunch menu was £25.

A little white-haired lady sat alone in a corner drinking soup from a bowl. Three breads were offered: black olive, white and walnut and raisin. I chose the latter. It was good. Not great.

I ordered boudin blanc as a starter. They had to tell me what it was. It's a lightly spiced French sausage of pork shoulder and chicken meat. It came with madeira sauce, sauteed spinach and pistachio nuts. It was absolutely marvellous.

Just as well because my next two courses were, in order of consumption, awful and not very good. Dinah's foie gras starter was sensational. Much better than at most West End restaurants.

My main course was fresh pasta with field mushrooms, white onion puree, artichokes, pine nuts and beurre noisette. Why it took 14 words to describe this miserable plate of ravioli I do not understand. Nothing in it added up to anything. The taste was meat-flavoured cotton wool. That's only three words, but let them suffice.

Dinah had, for her main course, seared loin of tuna with a salad of radish, coriander, soya and sesame. She was extremely pleased with it.

The still water was Blenheim, which is the worst water in the world. Worse than Hildon and that's saying something.

A lady guest came over and said, "Delighted to see you well and eating." A nattily dressed man came to the table behind us and said, "Parking's not a problem, I found somewhere in Twickenham."

For dessert Dinah had excellent creme brulee. My lime and lemon sorbet didn't speak to me at all. I was advised by the courteous and professional assistant restaurant manager, Edward Allsopp, that everything was made on the premises. None of the desserts was bought in. I should have given him the name Marine Ices and told him to get its instead.

The bill came to £81, including service. I put four £20 notes on the table.

"That'll be fine," said Mr Allsopp.

"I should think so," I responded. "I'm not paying by credit card, so you're saving 4 or 5% commission."

As I went to the car the lady who'd wished me well called out, "Glad to see you walking," and clapped her hands. That's the first time I've been applauded for walking.

  • I'm unimpressed with Allen the Mayfair butcher. I've been loyal to them for years but meat is now frequently delivered too late for lunch. What greater sin is there?

    I'm very impressed with Whole Foods Market, the huge emporium in Kensington. Their produce is excellent, but not all organic. They have wonderful Boyd Farm strawberries and raspberries.

    When my housekeeper put some shrivelled, horrid tasting raspberries in front of me, I complained. She produced the Highgrove container they'd come in. Who says Prince Charles knows anything about farming?

    Whole Foods Market announces on its website, "Our mission is to offer organic, locally grown food." John Boyd, owner of Boyd farms, wrote to me, "We make no claim to be organic, wild or even bucolic. But your comments confirm my view that it's perfectly possible to grow the finest flavoured fruit with modern techniques."

    Perhaps the words: "fresh and wild organic" prominent on Whole Foods window are a description of their CEO and co-founder John Mackey. I've never met an organic man, but I guess he can't be far away.

    Winner's letters

    How could you, last week, show us the lovely and clearly voluptuous Ruby Snape (or should that be "shape") sandwiched between yourself and a bus. Shame on you. More Ruby, please!
    Alan Gray, Hertfordshire

    Last week's photo was the first I've ever seen with a twinkle in your eyes. Either you are completely recovered, or is it the close proximity of Ruby's chest, or both?
    Adam Osborn, Malaga, Spain

    Hah - you've been rumbled, Winner. You have no friends, you just make them up. Look at Ruby, your "receptionist". Obviously your face transposed by computer on to a young woman's picture. No wonder you describe her as "luscious"; self love does that to one.
    Norman Hodgson, Washington

    Further to L Berkman's letter last week regarding the state of the toilets at the Pump House, the first port of call when visiting any unfamiliar hotel, pub, eatery, should always be the toilets. That will tell you the state of everything else within the property, including the people.
    Huw Beynon, Llandeilo

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