Published 9 November 2007 News Review 751st article
Another highly important piece of news for you. Geraldine has Italian lessons from Alexa Connelly who lives a few doors from my mansion. What teachers are doing living in such splendid surroundings, I can't imagine. They're meant to be poor and in Barnsley.
Alexa recommended Bumpkin, a restaurant in Notting Hill owned by the people who have Boujis, a nightclub which is either frequented by royalty or page three girls, or both.
Bumpkin serves good old-fashioned English food.
On the Saturday lunch we went it was full at 12.25pm, although its three upper floors were closed.
The ground floor is very pleasant. A bar, a view of the kitchen, exaggerated Victorian type wallpaper, wooden tables and floor. On the blackboard were cumberland sausage, mash and gravy, cow pie, skirt steak, chips b&b, watercress and bearnaise, (don't ask me what a skirt steak is, I may have misread the writing), shank of lamb, tomatoes, garlic and rosemary, deep-fried pollack, mushy peas and chips. That's my type of food.
Louise Lovell, the extremely charming restaurant manager, assured me the chips were cut and made on the premises.
There's also a menu with similar comfort food. A good variety of it, including charter pie (whatever that is). Geraldine chose the Bumpkin breakfast of bacon, sausage, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, eggs any style (she chose fried) and toast.
We both started with an excellent rocket and parmesan salad. The waitresses all had T-shirts with "Country girl" on the back. Bit twee but pleasant.
At the next table people were eating enormous cow pies. They looked fantastic. The cow pies, not the diners. Bumpkin doesn't offer bread and butter. Geraldine said, "I think they're right, because with bread and butter people sit there and eat it and then they're not hungry any more. Ridiculous." Let it never be said I don't give my fiancee a public platform.
The service was not speedy, to put it mildly. After 40 minutes I didn't have my main course. To pass the time I ordered a chocolate swirl cocktail consisting of chocolate and espresso shaken with rum, cream and sugar. I could become an alcoholic if all drinks were like that.
Geraldine said, "This makes me think of a New York restaurant."
"It would improve if we could only get some food," I added. The minute I come in my food should be put ahead of everybody else's. So we're not served in rotation.
I get mine first.
Eventually my fish and chips arrived. They were totally marvellous. The chips utterly memorable. "This is comfort food at its best," said Geraldine tucking into her Bumpkin breakfast. She thought the black pudding was spectacular.
The general manager of the whole premises, which I strongly advise you to visit, is Dariush Nejad. Both he and Louise were working like mad serving customers, which was just as well as a mass of waiting people collected at the bar.
For dessert I ordered treacle tart. A big letdown. "There's hardly any taste of treacle in it at all," I moaned to Geraldine. "If I was given this on a blind tasting I'd be hard-pressed to say what it was."
Geraldine, normally rightly sceptical of my views, took some of my treacle tart as if to say, "I'm going to tell you what rubbish you are." Instead she said, "Yeah, you're right."
I left most of my tart.
Seeing this Louise told me later, "I've taken it off the bill."
"Which you didn't have to, but it's very sweet of you," I replied.
Thus replenished I went to sign my Fat Pig Diet book in Waterstone's in Notting Hill.
The book is now in its third reprint. Still time for you to go to www.timesonline.co.uk/booksfirst or phone them (0870 160 8080) and get it for Christmas at less than the £12.99 retail price.
On Radio 4's Today programme I talked about Tokyo having more three Michelin star restaurants than Paris or London. It's well nigh impossible to compare Japanese food with French or English. Perhaps the local Michelin judges were biased in favour of their own people.
As the world's new diet guru I accept Japanese food is slimming. Also dangerous. I strongly advise you never to eat raw fish of any kind. An oyster caused my seriously life-threatening illness and has left me somewhat crippled.
Apparently the three-star Tokyo restaurants don't like foreigners coming in anyway. Lucky foreigners. I wonder how many Japanese Michelin inspectors will still be alive at the end of the year?
When I was in Tokyo (twice) it was kobe beef that reigned supreme. It eats special grass. Or maybe Europeans. Either way, it's better than raw cod.
Last week you wrote scathingly about Jean-Christophe Novelli. At his White Horse restaurant, Harpenden, the service was slow and smug. The starters were so poor I decided to call it a day and leave. They should rename it the White Elephant.
James Logan, Hertfordshire
I can empathise with Annabel looking crestfallen last week when discovering no News Review section went to the Four Seasons hotel. It happened to us - I did miss Jeremy Clarkson.
Rob Laughton, Suffolk
I've suffered the awful experience of receiving The Sunday Times without the News Review section. Could Michael request luncheon vouchers for some of his recommended restaurants be inserted within the paper in the event of a recurrence?
Rodney Woolf, Cheshire
Please don't appear on television again before the 9pm watershed. We saw you on The One Show looking slim, happy and normal. We want cynicism and hate, to make us laugh!
Julia and Geoff Evans, Brittany
"Awful, ghastly, absurd, pretentious", you said on November 25. I thought you were writing about yourself, not the restaurant.
Nigel Baldwin, London
Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST or e-mail michael.winner@sunday times.co.uk