After much flumming and dumming I discovered Nicholas Road and Nottingdale, a restaurant owned by Charles Dunstone Published 12 December 2010 News Review 908th article
Michael at Nottingdale with Harry Hensman, left, and Charles Dunstone (Rebekah Brooks)
I've been to restaurants that are difficult to find. Never to a restaurant in a street that is in no map book. After much flumming and dumming I discovered Nicholas Road is new. It's off Evesham Street, W11.
The area looks like the world after nuclear war. Bereft of people or activity. A sliver of light, like an oasis in a desert of nothingness, turned out to be Nottingdale, a restaurant owned by Charles Dunstone, one of our great entrepreneurs.
Mr D started with a few quid in a flat in Marylebone, which he was soon chucked out of because it wasn't zoned for office use. He now flogs mobile phones under the name Carphone Warehouse. He's got TalkTalk and heaven knows what else. Employs 19,000 people in the UK.
We entered a brightly lit diner with a long counter, chefs at work, wooden tables without tablecloths, wooden chairs minus padding. My type of place. We were joined by Charles's lovely wife, Celia, and Mr and Mrs Charlie Brooks. He's a famous novelist and horse racing expert; she, a super-executive in the newspaper world. I met her years ago when she was a foot soldier. One of the brightest people ever. It was a good group.
Stephen Hester, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns my bank, Coutts, came over. I thought, "I'll ask for another £9m loan," then decided it might be poor form in a social environment.
The chef is Harry Hensman. The restaurant manager "has a very complicated name", said Charles. "It ends in 'garlic' so I just call her Garlic." For the finickity among you, her name is Michelle Cruz-Garlick.
I asked twice for the home-made focaccia and was told to shut up because the staff were warming it. It was superb. We got sausages, ham and titbits on a wooden platter. All fresh and excellent.
I ordered pizza with guanciale, rosemary and buffalo mozzarella and some fried zucchini. The pizza was historic - "I think it should be our signature dish," suggested Charles - the fried zucchini, a bit blobby. Then pappardelle with autumn truffle: brilliant.
The staff refilled my glass with ice regularly, which is more than most restaurants manage. Geraldine thought her artichoke soup amazing.
To demonstrate my genius as a food critic, I've forgotten what my main course was. It's not on my tape or in my notes. I remember liking it. If you put a gun to my head (which many of you would find amusing), I'd say it was fish.
I've often eaten Amalfi lemon tart in Amalfi. At Nottingdale it was just as good. This place is a find. If you can find it. My advice is: a) when you go, leave early; b) take a picnic basket just in case.
I saw an ad in Country Life magazine for a converted trawler. The crews take 11 people round Scotland's wild west coast. The food looked terrific: freshly caught fish, lobster, scallops, shrimps. Marie Thoms, the Majestic Line sales manager, told me it was run by "two wild men" - her father, Andy, and Dr Kenneth Grant. She sent a photo of dad in full Scottish regalia playing the bagpipes on one of their two boats.
I said I wanted the trip just for me and Geraldine. Marie responded, "You'll miss the group experience of being with other people."
"I don't do groups," I explained.
Next April I shall come among the Scots in full Winner regalia: shirt not tucked in, pyjama bottoms, suede loafers. Make a change from the south of France, Caribbean, Italy, Streatham High Road. You'll get a meticulous report.
After I wrote how horrible her rolls were on Eurostar - maybe they'd hung around too long - Adrian Macceleri from Sally Clarke's bakery delivered fresh ones, assuring me, "They're much better than you experienced." Sorry, Sally, but they weren't. Still heavy and chewy. My staff thought the same.
Sally should go to Michael Parkinson's fantastic Royal Oak pub near Bray. It has started baking its own bread. Great quality.
On Twitter MrMichaelWinner (not the fake michael_winner) has 3,204 followers. I tell witty stories, give details of my new book, Unbelievable!, which updates my ST reviews and recalls my dining with stars. Yours for £13.59 including postage from The Sunday Times Bookshop (0845 271 2135).
Then there's the Sunday Times Dinner with Winner at the elegant Belvedere in Holland Park on Wednesday, January 19. Free, easy parking. Geraldine and I greet you. Champagne and canape reception; a three-course meal with wines; gift of two signed MW books; my cabaret speech; paintings by Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol. Price £150 per person. To book, call 0871 620 4027.
The Hollywood director John Landis emails: "No matter how much you push the envelope it'll still be stationery . . . two silkworms had a race, they ended up in a tie . . . a grenade thrown into a French kitchen would result in Linoleum Blownapart . . . a dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering . . . atheism is a non-prophet organisation." I could go on quoting John. But why enrage you further?
Calm down, dears. Join me in Harrods' books department, 12.30pm on Tuesday, December 14.
You criticise the other Savoy guests but turn up in a jacket discarded by Liberace 50 years ago and retrieved from the Holland Park Oxfam shop. No wonder the restaurant manager vanished. Probably trying to get you an audition with a Four Tops tribute group.
John Whittington, Hertfordshire
You said many Savoy guests looked like vagrants who slept in nearby doorways. Were you, perhaps, seated facing the mirror?
Chris Phillips, Buckinghamshire
My experience at the Savoy River restaurant was worse than yours. I left my number for the absent manager to ring me so I could tell him all was not well; never heard a thing. How is it possible so much money is spent on "hardware" (renovation) yet all the matching "software" (service) is abandoned?
Sir David Tang, Hong Kong
Once again you've hit the nail on the head. Fairmont missed a huge opportunity with the River restaurant. We were seated next to the service entrance for breakfast. If food and service had been up to scratch we wouldn't have worried. But the table was cleared before our main dishes were served.
James Harkness, Surrey
Sorry about your con-tricked PA Natalie. Churchill said, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." If Natalie would like to help with my tax return . . .
Peter Stancomb, Wiltshire
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