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A decent lunch? Not a ghost of a chance here

Published 14 February 2010
News Review
865th article

Michael and Geoff Meredith outside Poppy's Tea Rooms and Restaurant (Dinah May)

I like Shrewsbury. Lots of Tudor buildings, lovely atmosphere. I'm very big in Shrewsbury. It was the only place where we filmed me grabbing shoppers on the street for my TV show Michael Winner's Dining Stars and had to move on again and again because crowds of people kept asking for my autograph and following us. Very intelligent people in Shrewsbury. Know a bit of class when they see it.

At lunchtime we were in Milk Street, outside Poppy's Tea Rooms and Restaurant. Looked Tudor. Apparently built in 1617. Seriously old oak beams. Dinah, my assistant and hairdresser, thought the carpet was dirty. I was with her and Joan Hills, my make-up lady. Geoff Meredith, the owner, served us.

"Very nice class of clientele," I remarked. Geoff said he'd got pasta with two Italian sausages mixed with tomato sauce and basil. His menu said, "All meals cooked fresh to order."

"What's the pasta, Geoff?" I asked.

"It's mixed pasta," replied Geoff.

"What do you mean, mixed?" I said. "Does it come from a tin?"

"It comes from three packages and they mix them up," explained Geoff.

"Now, Geoff, listen to me carefully," I said. "I'm going to have the chicken breast and I want a piece of quiche so I can test both items. Dinah is having the English breakfast and Joan the organic panini, green tomato and basil. Rush that through if you could."

"I'll have it in eight minutes," said Geoff. The chicken was like lead.

"Is it microwaved, Geoff?" I asked.

He said, "Yes."

"This restaurant is very good for the diet because you can't eat anything," I observed to Dinah and Joan. The quiche was beyond belief awful. The base managed to be soggy and hard at the same time. Joan said her organic panini was hard, too.

Dinah said, "Even my eggs taste funny and I'm hungry. I'm going to buy a bag of sweets or a chocolate bar."

Geoff assured me desserts were made in the kitchen. My bakewell tart wasn't bad. I shouldn't have asked for it to be warm because they obviously put it in the microwave. Even so, it was quite acceptable. Joan did not complain about her damson and apple tart.

"Better than the first course?" asked Geoff, who'd taken away almost untouched plates.

"You could say that, Geoff," I replied. He responded, "Well, you win some, you lose some."

"He's quite cheerful," I said to Dinah. "He's not fazed by any of it."

Dinah was now eating Golden Crunch biscuits.

"This packed biscuit is definitely the best thing I've eaten here," I commented.

Geoff returned. "Do you believe in ghosts?" he asked. "We've been told there are six here."

"Have you seen any of them?" I asked. "I've felt them," said Geoff.

"What did they feel like?" I queried.

"Cold," said Geoff. "I was working at the bottom of the stairs and suddenly the room went cold and all the hairs on my body stood up. I had a moustache at the time and that went up. Last week a lady was here. She went to the loo and said she couldn't do anything. I asked why and she said, 'Because I've just been talking to a gentleman in an 1850 army suit . . .' " Geoff paused for effect. "And I haven't seen her since," he said. Could have been the food, I thought. But he was such a nice fellow I didn't say it out loud.

  • At Quo Vadis in Soho, after a very successful press screening of my TV show at the Soho hotel, I had some fantastic crisp fried calf's brains. It's a superb restaurant.

    So is Angela Hartnett's Murano in Mayfair. The set lunch is amazing value. As well as three magnificent courses you get freebies: sausages, salami and ham, different breads, arancini-which are fried balls of risotto, mascarpone and truffle oil-eight little sorbets and ice creams, and glorious petits fours. All for £27 plus 12.5% service. The three-course vegetarian menu is £60. Figure that out.

    I know I've arrived in the important league, because this year Angela sent me a Christmas card.

  • If you want to see me in the flesh (an odd sight) then go to the Little Theatre in Leicester on Thursday for my one-man show, My Life in Movies and Other Places. You can even ask questions.

    For the Oundle literary festival I'm at the Great Hall on March 20. Then at the Princess Grace Theatre, Monaco, on April 27. Plus my ITV1 series starts in 12 days. By which time you'll all have had enough of me. Believe me, I know the feeling.

  • Dinah's poodle was 20 years old and very ill. My marvellous PA, Natalie, a bubbly Essex girl, was commiserating.

    I said, "The vet's going to put down Dinah's dog, then he's going to do me."

    Natalie said, "Can't he do you first?"

    Then I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my fantastic and adorable fiancee, Geraldine, when she calmly remarks, "You're a sicko git with Asperger's syndrome." Then she returns to delicately sipping her Earl Grey tea. It's a laugh a minute in my house. Luckily, it's being so cheerful that keeps me going.

    Michael's missives

    Congratulations for the cheeky photo of you in Miami Beach last week. The hand over the crotch and the right nipple temptingly just hidden by the fold in your shirt-it is likely to become a gay classic.
    Clive Thompson, Gloucestershire

    Geraldine's photo last week exposed a right tit. For goodness' sake do your shirt up . . . or has ITV indicated that it's planning to revive Miami Vice?
    John Henty, East Sussex

    Before lolling about undressed, consider those who read The Sunday Times over breakfast. I couldn't face my sausages; my husband left his kedgeree untouched. We both felt distinctly queasy all day.
    Marianne Bartram, Devon

    Michael, what a poser. Definitely overeaten, overexposed and overcooked. Have you thought about contacting Max Clifford or alternatively the Distressed Gentlefolk Association? PS: could we see Geraldine in the same pose?
    Ashley Fox, Berkshire

    At the Michelin-starred New Angel in Dartmouth, Devon, the food was sensational. The service was shocking, inexperienced, panic-stricken. The proprietor was entirely uninterested when informed of our displeasure.
    Polly Bennett, Oxfordshire

    Like everyone else, I shall be glued to Michael Winner's Dining Stars with the curtains drawn so nobody knows.
    Ken King, London

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