Michael with Jean-Philippe Susilovic, left, and Adam Kenwright (Dinah May)
Poor old Gord. Had a bit of a caning recently. Restaurants collapsing or being given up. Two outlets chucked out of the Berkeley. Announced he had to sell his Ferrari to pay the debts. "That's a laugh, Gordon," I said when we met. "I had a Ferrari. If you get £5.80 for a second-hand one, it's a result."
"I bought a new one," said Gordon. "That's why I got rid of the other." Long may Ramsay be rich enough to do that. He never stops insulting me in public, but I like him. So I felt it appropriate to visit his new London gaff, Pétrus, in Belgravia.
I arrived with my assistant Dinah. We sat on red banquettes in a little bar. I asked for champagne and orange juice for me, champagne for Dinah. The only thing that arrived was a glass of orange juice for me. I pointed out the error. They came back with champagne and orange juice for me, nothing for Dinah.
"Serve the lady first," advised the restaurant manager, Jean-Philippe Susilovic. They brought Dinah an empty glass. "That'll teach her," I thought - most unfairly, because she's very good.
With the champagne we got two types of popcorn in paper funnels. Absurd. Popcorn does not complement champagne. It disintegrates in your fingers, putting nasty stuff all over the place.
Jean-Philippe proudly told me the restaurant was fully booked for lunch. Then a man arrived and said, "I haven't reserved; can I have a table for two?" "Yes, of course," replied JP.
"So you're not fully booked," I observed. "We need to be flexible," responded Jean-Philippe, adding, "I took a Prozac this morning. I know why."
My guest, Adam Kenwright, theatrical supremo, entered. We proceeded to the dining area. I'd already been there on a planning trip. It's a bizarre room with an enormous floor-to-ceiling wine container in the middle. This cuts the place up, so you gaze at wine bottles instead of the theatre of a full dining room. That's particularly odd because when I went to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Covent Garden, Ramsay said how ridiculous it was that its first-floor restaurant was divided by a large counter with pots on it. Now he's divided his own place.
I had trouble finding a good table. Jean-Philippe offered me one near the kitchen. "That's the best table," I said, pointing to another, "but it's too small."
"We'll move a larger table there," suggested Jean-Philippe.
The food, under the head chef, Sean Burbidge, was very good indeed. Sean was sous-chef at Gordon's restaurant in Versailles, when he owned one.
We started with a freebie white onion velouté soup. Totally superb. I had the set menu lunch, £25 without service and coffee. My starter of crab and salmon cannelloni was delicate, well prepared. Adam started with pigeon from Vendée. That's rare. Most restaurants serve pigeon from Bresse.
My main course was boiled beef cheek with root vegetables and cardamom consommé. We both liked everything. Even the bread was spectacularly good. My dessert of orange meringue pie with clove ice cream was incredible.
"This has been an excellent meal," I dictated onto my tape, "and not too fancy."
"Would you like coffee or tea?" I asked Adam.
"No, I'm saving you the £5, dear," he replied.
Petits fours arrived. Some were ice cream covered in chocolate with dry ice swirling about. All we needed was Gordon coming through the mist trying to flog us a used Ferrari. I'd been told he might turn up for our photo. Jean-Philippe rang to check, came back and said, "He's stuck abroad somewhere."
"Abroad is probably his home in Battersea," I remarked.
I put my 1966 Rolls Phantom V in the photo instead. Stick Ferraris up your jumper, Gordon. That's a proper car.
The food is horrible at La Petite Maison in Mayfair, the staff grotesquely rude. I saw them give away the table of one of the most renowned chefs in England. When he arrived and asked if the staff knew who he was, the receptionist snapped, "No."
Recently the wife of a famous movie star booked in her husband's name for five people at 8pm. The star's daughter and her husband came early. They asked for the table for X. The arrogant employee, referring to an actor known worldwide, asked, "How do you spell the name?" They were informed the table would not be available until 8pm, even though, as they told me, "There were five or six big tables free." As the bar was full, the daughter asked to wait at a table. "They're all booked," barked an employee.
Daughter went to the manager. He ordered, "Wait outside." It was very cold. So daughter cancelled the table and the group headed to Mr Chow, where they were courteously treated.
None of this surprises me. London's La Petite Maison is owned by the rudest man I've ever met. He asked me to join him for pre-dinner drinks at a French Riviera hotel, then went into a diatribe that left Geraldine and me open-mouthed. I often tell the story. As they say, fish rots from the head down.
PS: The Nice original is owned by Nicole Rubi. She's lovely and a great host.
On behalf of those applying for a Michael Winner doll, can you please confirm: do they come as a complete set or do readers have to provide their own pins?
S Dickson, Edinburgh
Never mind about being told how to eat your food at Gil's in Dubrovnik. At the Fish Taverna at Pegia, near Paphos in Cyprus, the owner not only told my husband how to eat his sea bream; she sat down and proceeded to cut his food up for him! We protested, but to no avail.
Merrie Longbottom, Norfolk
You are right about the ridiculous Gil's restaurant but your grumpiness about heading to the Dubrovnik Palace hotel meant you missed out on the local restaurant, Konoba Atlantic, five minutes away.
Eamonn Quinn, Dublin
Last week's photo on Sipan island suggests a total transmogrification. Is that really you? Or is it the beginning of a new dawn, when we can view a delightful lady each week rather than a sad, ageing scruff?
Gandy Luciano, St Cyr-sur-Mer, France
Great photo of Geraldine. Be a gentleman and let her write the whole column; then we can all know what the real Michael Winner is like.
Charles Gordos, Wolverhampton
Who is Michael Winner, what does he do and why does he eat so much?
Howell Jenkins, Suffolk
Please write to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST or email email@example.com