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All right, Sir Trevor, I'm ready for my close-up

Published 11 May 2008
News Review
773rd article



I have a somewhat limited association with McDonald's. My first of two visits was to the New Rochelle outlet in New York state on July 25, 1983.

We were on a location reconnaissance for Scream for Help, a movie featuring a 17-year-old girl in trouble. I knocked on doors asking, "Do you have a teenage daughter? If so, could I see her bedroom?" Many residents called the local police chief, whom I knew well, saying, "There's a pervert on the loose."

"I do wish you'd tell me when you're going out," the police chief said pleasantly.

It was the first day of work and we lunched at McDonald's. I was massively disappointed by its Big Mac. It seemed all soggy.

I phoned Lee Rich, boss of Lorimar, a massive TV and movie company in Hollywood making Dallas and other famous TV shows. "How did it go?" he asked.

"Lunch at McDonald's was awful," I replied.

"I never go there," said Lee.

Later his wife told me, "He goes to the Beverly Hills branch every Saturday with the kids."

A year ago I considered visiting McDonald's for this column. After lunch at the excellent and chic Scalini in Belgravia I went round seven tables of elegant Sunday Times readers. "Excuse me, do you go to McDonald's?" I asked. All of them said, "Yes."

One man beckoned me back, adding, "My children make me go there."

Recently the TV producer for Sir Trevor McDonald (I'm told he's no relation to the hamburger bars) rang to ask if I'd give my opinion of McDonald's for his news programme.

I turn down about 50 offers a year to speak about food on TV. Writing for you is totally fulfilling.

Strangely, I accepted this, insisting it be the Kensington High Street branch, which is closest to my house. They switched to Notting Hill.

As I didn't care whether I did it or not, my assistant told them, "You agreed High Street Ken; Mr Winner says if it isn't, find someone else." So I ended up with a TV crew in the Kensington High Street McDonald's, which I'd passed endlessly in one Rolls-Royce or another for years.

The room was pleasant, fresh, with clean, wood top tables. It's the chain's Forever Young brand, introduced two years ago. The staff looked nicely presented. They're soon to have outfits designed by my friend Bruce Oldfield.

I had a hamburger with M on the box. "What exactly is it?" I asked. It was a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. The bun was squashy, the meat average. Not a patch on the Ivy hamburger.

I ordered two milkshakes, strawberry and vanilla. They were oversweet and sickly. Those at the Wolseley are far better. A McD rep told me all their food was organic and they'd cut down on salt and fat. "You didn't cut down on sugar, did you?" I said, referring to the milkshakes.

Then I tried a Chicken Legend with a spicy salsa sauce, which was fine. The bun was different and of excellent texture, the lettuce was crisp. Top marks for that. The salad was also very good. Fresh tasting. I'd have accepted it in any upper-class restaurant.

The chips, which I'd been told were terrible, were very acceptable. The Filet o-Fish was encased in a horrid bun, the fish pretty good.

They said it was sustainable hoki fish from New Zealand. Frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn. If it tastes good why should I care if it's sustainable? I'm not in control of sustainable.

My final order was a Bacon de Luxe with tomato relish, batavia lettuce, a slice of tomato, garlic mayonnaise and three slices of bacon. On a scale of 1 to 10 it was a strong 5.

McDonald's earns a big plus for serving Vittel, a first-rate French mineral water. Yet diners at Scott's have to suffer the inferior Tufa.

If you had a milkshake (£1.29), a Chicken Legend (£2.89) and salad (99p) it would be a reasonable and filling meal for £5.17. No wonder McDonald's serves 54m customers a day in 120 countries. They won't see me again, so it'll be 53,999,999. They're unlikely to hold a prayer meeting about that.



  • Now to Silly Willie Wonka - aka Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways who said on TV: "No British Airways customer will have more than two people queue in front of them at terminal 5." My visit proved he was talking through his you-know-what.

    My esteemed travel agent Sue Roberts went later. She found, on a quiet morning, queues of between five and ten people at seven BA check-in desks.

    I have the exact details if BA's PR chief, Julia Simpson, is interested.



    Michael's missives

    Deia was unspoilt until the opening of La Residencia, the hotel you described last week. Now the world's wealthy waddle their way to the expensive boutiques and restaurants in the village accompanied by their unspoilt leggy blondes. Unspoilt, Michael? You don't know the meaning of the word.
    Mike Hutton, Leicestershire

    In adding to La Residencia, the Orient-Express group destroyed centuries-old olive trees and the Moorish terracing that supported them in order to build the frightful wing behind the original buildings. Locals call it the crematorium, the hen house and the factory.
    Neil French, Deia, Mallorca

    We like your trendy haircut displayed in last week's photo. How much did it cost? Or was it a freebie from Boris Johnson's barber as a marketing ploy?
    Dr Mike Mayberley, East Sussex

    Having suffered Winner's barbed comments for many years I've finally decided to change my name. What does he recommend? Evian, Perrier or San Pellegrino?
    Charles Hildon, Somerset

    Your 46-room house as described last week sounds lovely and must have cost a fortune. Since you've plummeted off the Sunday Times Rich List have you found it's built on radioactively contaminated land? That or the drop in property prices is really hitting hard.
    Louiza Spiliopoulou, London