Published 18 November 2007 News Review 748th article
Here's an important piece of information. Geraldine has her nails done at Alpha Beauty on Kensington High Street. I can further reveal that the owner, Fatima Mousourou, strongly recommended Fait Maison, a restaurant on nearby Stratford Road. It's a nice little street full of "village" shops.
As I walked towards Fait Maison the lady chef, Fatima Lakhdar, got out of her car.
That's great, I'm going in to lunch and the chef's on the pavement, I thought.
It's a small place with an impressive display of croissants, pain au chocolat, almond meringues and other stuff in the window. The manager, Samy Nada, said it was all home-made. It should be.
Fait Maison means made at home.
There's a counter with cold meats and salads, minestrone soup, chicken pie, soya beans and pasta and, I was told, Spanish lamb stew with rice. Also cakes: Belgium chocolate, carrot, cheese and pecan tart, fruit tart, fig tart, chocolate brownies and chocolate chip cookies. I took a chocolate chip cookie. It was a total delight.
There are only nine tables in the back room. One has newspapers for customers to read. A smiley, welcoming waitress explained we should order at the bar. I had some freshly squeezed apple juice.
I dictated into my tape, "There's a baby on the table next to me and another baby's coming in. They're pointing to the table the other side of me.
I can't have a baby on either side." Luckily baby number two veered off to another table.
Mohammed Elbanna entered. He owns this place and a butcher's shop opposite called Miller of Kensington.
My stew was enough for at least three people. I'd been told it was Spanish lamb with rice. Mohammed said it was veal provencal. Then he changed his mind and said it was turkey provencal. "Veal is on Tuesday," he said.
A butcher who doesn't know one meat from another is fairly rare. But he's a nice fellow, Mohammed. Came from Egypt in 1970. He told me his croissants were awarded best in London three years running by a leading catering magazine. The Guardian named him best butcher in west London.
I should be awarded best human being in my street. Or at least on the north side of it.
"The man who makes our croissants brought the croissant to London 28 years ago," added Mohammed. I don't know why, but I viewed that information with a degree of scepticism.
My turkey stew, enlivened by a Moroccan (or maybe not Moroccan) sauce, was excellent.
My dessert meringue was too sticky on the inside. The pastry on my fruit tart and my apple tarts was soft and soggy.
Geraldine said, "It's short pastry." I have no idea what short pastry means. But I should have chosen the cakes.
Prince Charles, Geraldine and I recently went to the opening of the remodelled Fortnum & Mason. I was expecting total disaster as the designer, David Collins, is responsible for a mass of appallingly designed restaurants all over London. Most of them featuring a variety of dreary brown paint.
To my surprise his work on Fortnum's is a triumph. Brown is noticeably missing. I didn't think it needed changing at all, but David has retained the elegance and period style yet added great flair.
The ground-floor restaurant, which had lovely murals of 18th-century gentry visiting workers in various parts of the East has been re-done with shelves of crockery, clocks and a large bar. The menu is much as it was, including welsh rarebit, which they always did so well.
On the raised ground floor there was superb champagne but no canapes. So I nicked a wide variety of sweets and crystallised fruit from large jars which were on display but not meant to be taken. Later I sent Beverley Aspinall, managing director of Fortnum's, a cheque for Pounds 20 which more than covered my booty.
Going up in the lift I was with Shaun Hill, the chef in charge of all the restaurants. Outside the fourth floor restaurant they have sofas and tables for tea. Shaun brought me sandwiches and scones. They were first rate. The only downside was they serve Blenheim water, which is ghastly.
On the third floor amidst stationery, board games, jewel cases et al, Michael Frohlich, Fortnum's public relations chief, introduced himself. "Why are you not serving canapes on the ground floor, thus forcing me to nick sweets?" I asked.
"All the canapes are on the upper floors to allow circulation," replied Mr Frohlich. Not an answer I understood. The canapes that did appear were faultless.
The new Fortnum's is a delight. David Collins is reprieved. What more could he wish for?
We saw you and the lovely Geraldine at the Wolseley. We thought you looked most fit. What did you think of the food? I was totally impressed with the starched tablecloth -so stiff, it was as if rigor mortis had set in.
Jill and Peter Jackling, Buckinghamshire
I read that MW claims to have had 150 lovers. Surely, Michael, a chap in your position could do better than two point something a year!
Steve West, Cardiff
I took my wife to Drones in Belgravia last Sunday. The service was non existent, the food below any standard I would expect. The manager's attitude verged on being rude, the waiters were clearly new to the job. What a pity a famous name like Drones can go down so much.
Darryll Warnford-Davis, London
According to Oz Clarke's Pocket Wine Book 2007 the three remaining bottles of Chateau Latour 1961 in MW's cellar are at their peak and will age no further. No mention of fading as yet. Is this a good omen for their owner?
Roger Baer, Bath
I agree with you about Ognisko (Winner's Dinners, November 4). The food is ghastly. It wasn't always so. I spent much time there with my parents when a child. But now the food and atmosphere are dreadful.
Ann Barrak (nee Rogala-Pindelska), West Sussex