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Out with the slice boys and the Spice Girls

Published 3 February 2008
News Review
759th article

Adam Gilbert, left, and Daniel Silverston behind Michael on board the Salient (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

Readers of this column know well I'm one of the world's great intellectuals. Few have the depth of vision, the command of knowledge, the aura of philosophy that I embrace.

Proof of this was my recent decision to attend a concert given by the Spice Girls at the O2 arena. My friend Lucian Grainge, a man of extraordinary importance in the music business and head of Universal music in every far-flung country in the world except the USA, arranged the tickets. I was to fix a boat to take us there plus the catering. Boat paid for by Universal, catering by yours truly.

Lucian has the merchandising rights for the Spice Girls tour. I have the merchandising rights for Michael Winner. All offers gratefully received. I rejected silly boats for 15 people even though we were only six and chose the lower-priced Salient, owned by Crown River Cruises, which is licensed to take 250 people.

"Lucian has asked a couple of friends," said his PA.

"As we've got 244 places left I think we can squeeze them in," I said generously.

I loved the Salient. Enormous lower deck, big upper deck with bar, dozens of tables laid with cloths. To cater I chose Soho Sandwich Company run by Adam Gilbert and Daniel Silverston, not quite a partner. Adam used to make pommes soufflees for me when he worked at Claridge's in the good old times under John Williams.

One day, famous in catering, I was at the Dorchester Grill, before it was ruined. They said, "We can't do pommes soufflees, the potatoes are wrong."

I went straight to the desk, rang Claridge's and said, "Send some pommes soufflees over to the Dorchester."

It was Adam, I learnt later, who got his arms burnt by hot fat as he prepared them for delivery. I know this because his sister-in-law met Geraldine on the beach in Barbados and revealed his identity.

The sandwiches were totally historic. Great smoked salmon on rye, toasted pizza bianca with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and pumpkin pesto; more toasted ones with brie, bacon and cranberry; another with schnitzel and Swiss cheese. And many more.

"I won sandwich designer of the year," announced Adam with pride.

"Who from?" I asked. "The Jewish Blind School?"

"The British Sandwich Association," corrected Adam.

He also offered excellent fish pie, Lancashire hotpot and shepherd's pie.

The desserts included the best mixed jelly ever, terrific little lemon meringue tarts and a marvellous vanilla and natural yoghurt panacotta.

I asked Lucian's son Elliott, aged 14, what mark he'd give out of 10 for the cold bread and butter pudding.

"Eight," replied Adam firmly.

"I wasn't asking you, you made it," I pointed out.

Elliott gave it only a six. Bread and butter pudding is best hot. So is chocolate fondant. Adam's was good, but a bit cloying.

Occasionally fast clipper boats passed by and our enormous boat rocked in their wake like the Titanic in trouble.

"I hope they've got plastic bags around," said Geraldine. Then, as water calm was restored, came a situation.

"Let's take the photo," I announced. "Lucian, you come in."

"I don't want to," said Lucian.

Caroline, his lovely wife said, "Go take a photo, Lucian."

His son Elliott pushed him and said, "Go in the photo, Dad." But Lucian was unmoved.

"I don't want to be in the photo," he repeated.

I understand this. I have many photos of me with the Queen. She had to be heavily sedated before agreeing to them. I won't tell you how I coerced Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to be pictured with me, but it was not through a dodgy donation.

Margaret Thatcher was the worst, bless her. I had to give her a year's supply of gift-wrapped cocaine before she agreed to pose. Even his holiness the Dalai Lama needed inducement for our smiling picture. He got enough hashish to stock an open air pop festival.

Perhaps I should have offered Lucian 10 quid. But he might have thought I was requiring other services. So the piccy-poo is me and the chefs. Lucian remained solidly unavailable.

"What did you think of the Spice Girls concert?" I hear you ask. Let's draw a veil over that. Or preferably a heavily lined velvet curtain. They're sweet girls. I've met two of them.

I'm told after tax, agency fees and expenses they'll net £3m each for the tour. Good luck to them. They've brought glitter to the nation.

  • PS: On the trip back, even though he gave the bread and butter pudding a weak mark, I noticed Elliott tucked into a second portion. So there's no cloud without a silver lining.

    Winner's letters

    Writing last week of the Wolseley you supported, "Celebs over plebs any day." If we plebs pay the same as you celebs we have the same right. You're an obnoxious prat. I used to enjoy your self-opinionated ramblings. But now you show your true colours.
    Mark Pearce, Cornwall

    I'm a British Airways purser who served you on one of our flights. You were surprisingly and delightfully charming. Now the idiots who run our company have withdrawn your Gold Card, so we won't get to look after you again. It's Virgin's gain, our loss.
    Peter (full name withheld), London

    Thank you, Mr Winner. You've given the public one more reason to fly on British Airways. Do keep us informed on a regular basis of any other businesses you may choose to boycott.
    Bharat Jashanmal, Bahrain

    I'd rather walk than set foot on any aircraft owned or flown by Beyond Arrogance. No need to worry about your Gold Executive Club Card. Far from being such sweet sorrow, parting will be simply sweet.
    Charles Evans, Geneva

    Like many others I too have been ignored when writing to BA about exceptionally lousy service. They seem to view their customers as being children of a lesser God. My colleagues and I now use alternative carriers.
    Phillip O'Connor, Leicestershire

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