This week Michael is at La Reserve de Beaulieu, where a £50 sandwich with no filling makes him wonder why staff aren't on red alert when he is there Published 3 October 2010 News Review 898th article
Geraldine in the suite at La Reserve de Beaulieu in the south of France (Arnold Crust)
The "Intemporel club sandwich de La Reserve, pommes frites" is a lunchtime offering at La Reserve de Beaulieu, one of my favourite Cote d'Azur hotels. Intemporel, in case you didn't know, means timeless.
The price of this dish is €58, or £50.43 at the rate I got of €1.15 for £1.
You might think over £50 steep for a toasted sandwich and french fries. But it does include mayonnaise. La Reserve's spaghetti bolognaise is also over £50. My friend the theatrical tycoon Adam Kenwright looked aghast at his miserable club sandwich. There was hardly any chicken; just some tired lettuce, a single piece of bacon and tomatoes. He gamely ate half before exploding with indignation.
"I thought a sandwich was bread or toast with a filling in between," he said. "In the middle of my sandwich, there's just two bits of toast together, nothing else."
The restaurant manager, Roger Heyd, came over. He examined this poor excuse for a sandwich and agreed it was below par. "At any price," I said, "let alone at over fifty quid."
"We'll make another," offered Roger. Adam didn't want to wait for that. So Roger deducted it from the bill. In fairness, previous club sandwiches had been good. "He can't do everything," said Roger, referring to the hotel's two-Michelin-star chef, Olivier Samson. "Surely he can check before something horrific goes to my table, where disaster may be highly publicised," I said.
Proof that people aren't on red alert when I come in. They're on sleep alert.
Rather than exhibit a photo of me and a club sandwich I chose Geraldine in our suite at La Réserve.
If a week without my photo is intolerable, write in and I'll send you a personally signed one.
We now descend from the glamour of the south of France to the Waltham Abbey Marriott hotel in Essex.
To descend further would be impossible. It took for ever to check me in with computers that didn't seem to do much. The room was below basic. No toothbrush or toothpaste.
My assistant, Dinah, and my hairdresser, Joan, ate in the vast, unfriendly lobby and said it was absolutely ghastly. Cold coffee. Dinah had grilled hummus and salad; she described it as 20 olives with hardly any hummus. By contrast, the Moat House at Acton Trussell in Staffordshire, off the M6, was rather good. View of a tree-lined canal, a large suite, a first-rate breakfast.
I'm not booking for New Year's Eve, but you can. I was with - but not sharing a room with, as seems so popular among Tory politicians - my favourite Rolls-Royce dealer, Steve Gallimore.
He found my lovely black convertible 1975 Rolls Corniche with beige upholstery and 20,000 miles on the clock. A snip at £37,000. A recent internet trawl uncovered the same 1975 car with 80,000 miles on the clock for £75,000.
I can also tell you of the Lyon hotel, Shrewsbury. A place you were dying to hear about. A genuine old building, very uneven floors, marvellously aged beams. I slept but didn't eat.
Dinah had a cup of tea downstairs. It came stone cold and was replaced. I spent the night at the Old Vicarage hotel, Bridgnorth, Shropshire; a lovely Victorian building, enormous stained glass window, great views over gardens and the countryside. Pleasant single bedroom with chairs - called a junior suite in the trade. I couldn't work out how to get water through the shower instead of the bath taps. I meant to ask when I got downstairs but forgot. If you go there, investigate and tell me. It offers a 5% discount to members of the armed forces who display the appropriate warrant card. I considered signing up for Afghanistan to avail myself of this, but decided against. Lunched at La Brasserie on Brompton Road. It's very buzzy in a demi-monde way.
Cheerful customers; superb, courteous staff. Just had a makeover. Usually restaurant and hotel "improvements" are a disaster, the Connaught being the most grotesque example.
La Brasserie has a large new bar, added banquettes, and still retains the genuine French bistro atmosphere. Peter Godwin, who's owned it for 38 years, was eating there. Shows faith in his product.
Watching Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz on Turner Network Television I was disgusted to see my favourite song - Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead sung by the Munchkins - had been cut out.
The Munchkins themselves, a highlight of the movie, credited "The singer midgets as the Munchkins", were hardly there. Apparently it's now politically incorrect to show midgets singing and dancing. This is an outrageous slur on little people.
A fascistic attack on those smaller than most. Get your placards ready - "Bring back the Munchkins"; "Fair deal for small folk" - and we'll gather at the MGM offices.
Er, no, can't do that, Warner Brothers bought the rights.
Okay. To Warner Brothers' UK headquarters in Theobald's Road, 10am next Wednesday, in time to get us on the lunchtime news. Little people wanting to join the protest are particularly welcome.
They can stand in front so taller folk don't block them.
You say nobody else arrived during your two-hour stay at Time & Space. Was your car parked out in front, by any chance?
Aonghus Meaney, Ireland
You really cheer me up. You're rich and famous, people know you have a newspaper column to vent your anger, you get to talk to the managing director - and they still treat you like rubbish.
Nic Peeling, Worcestershire
After 14 years I cancelled my Amex Black Centurion card. I found no tangible benefits and a Ryanair-style call centre service for a whopping £1,800 fee. Other cards give you more for less. My calls went unanswered. Nobody phoned, wrote or sent flowers when I left.
Anthony McAlister, London
Well done for exposing the inadequacy of credit card companies in tackling fraud. Their computers are not up to the job. Sometimes you're not even aware a payment has been blocked until a major utility threatens to disconnect a needed service. It's an outrage.
Maria Travelta, Perthshire
I saw this in Camden High Street, an official road sign with added graffiti: Golders Green 3 miles. But to you - 2 1/2.
Bob Cove, Oxfordshire
A boy tells his pal he's getting married in a kilt. "What's the tartan?" asks his mate. "She'll be wearing a white dress," he replies.
Paul Lyons, Hampshire
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