My tongue gets in a tangle down at the local Delhi
The Warwick Arms retains the quaint Englishness of pubs and serves pleasant Indian food — but not a patch on London’s best
Published 16 January 2011 News Review 913th article
Michael at the Warwick Arms with, from left, Neil Sacharma, Michael Reynolds and Ram Singh (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)
From the sparkling snow of Switzerland to the Warwick Arms pub in Kensington, west London. I'd passed it on my nightly exercise. People rushed out and said, "This has the best Indian food in London." For Saturday lunch I proceeded from my house, through Edwardes Square, where Frankie Howerd and Piers Morgan lived, past Pembroke Studios, where David Hockney does strange things, to the New Apostolic church with its banner "A hearty welcome to all".
Through an alley at the side, and there was Homebase, once decorated with a marvellously kitsch ancient Egyptian exterior, which its owners sadly removed.
The Warwick Arms, opposite, was built in 1823 and retains the quaint Englishness of pubs determined to halt the spread of modernity. It's all twee and pleasant. The overweight landlord, Michael Reynolds, was charming. The chef, Ram Singh, and waiter, Neil Sacharma, both from Nepal, offered Exmoor beef from Stillmans butchers, Exmoor loin of pork from Lillycombe farm, chilli con carne (love that), home-made pie, home-cooked salt beef.
No, thanks. I was after an Indian. We ordered king prawns with white garlic and a white marinade: yoghurt, double cream, salt, pepper, ginger, garlic paste and lemon juice. More information than I needed. I chucked in an onion bhaji. Prawns were okay, no more. For main course: chicken tikka masala marinated with yoghurt, onion and Delhi spices, oh, enough already. Would it beat the historic taste of the dish I consumed every week at a dump in Bridge Street, Cambridge, when I was an undergraduate? My nan bread with lamb was too complicated. The chicken tikka, good, massively aided by an excellent raita. Would have helped if the plates were hot. Thin green paper napkins were horrible.
Geraldine described her chicken xacuti as "scrumpelicious". I think that meant she liked it. Mine was a bit too spicy. Pleasant Indian food but not a patch on London's best, as cooked by Manoj Vasaikar at Indian Zing in Hammersmith, or Vineet Bhatia at Rasoi in Chelsea.
For dessert I had gulab jamun, a sticky, sweet thing, with kulfi, a thick Indian milkshake, and Haagen-Dazs, a much-praised ice cream nowhere near as good as Marine Ices in Chalk Farm. I dictated, "This glubby thing I'm eating is really fantastic because it's light. I've had them at supposedly very good restaurants and they've been heavy." Geraldine, who rarely eats desserts but was trying this one, said, "Exactly." Thus agreeing with my food assessment. A rare moment.
A terrific restaurant overlooking Gstaad is the Sonnenhof. We sat outside with Roger Moore's son Geoffrey and his wife, Loulou, facing the snow-clad mountains. Got a bit nippy by dessert, so we moved inside. This has the best rosti - sort of hash brown potatoes - ever. The veal with sauce was memorable.
At the hotel Olden, which the owner, Bernie Ecclestone, told me was losing money, we had another superb meal. Supposedly it was full, so we were put at a small table for two. Throughout the meal I faced three larger, empty tables. The manager, Ermes Elsner, told me they were reserved. For the invisible man, perhaps? Ermes explained the Olden was due for a massive remake. It'll be full of suites with saunas, swimming pools, tame tigers, tea makers, butlers, budgerigars, the usual twaddle. It's a beautiful old place. Hope they don't mess it up.
Spending thousands on private jets is no guarantee of an easy life. I often use 247 Jet. Charming people. But oh dear. For my trip to Gstaad I booked a 10am takeoff from London City. On my way there I noticed the paperwork showed us leaving at 11am. The head office said, "Don't worry - your plane will be ready to leave at 10am." City airport had us down to take off at 10am but at that time we were waiting for the pilot to pay landing and fuel charges. He returned to announce City wouldn't take the company credit card. No surprise to me. In Florence with Michael and Shakira Caine we were hauled off the plane for the same reason. So Shakira and I had a whip-round and paid cash for the fuel to get us into the air.
The chairman of 247 Jet, Paul Mulligan, always had an answer. A mistake. The card was held up because the card company feared fraud. The wind was blowing in the wrong direction. We finally took off at 10.50am. That made me an hour late for lunch in Gstaad. When I got the invoice, it wasn't for the agreed amount. easyJet, here I come.
2011 started badly. My swimming pool maintenance man, Nigel Whittaker of London Leisure, installed equipment so water poured out where it shouldn't. Then the Bentley's power steering collapsed. It needed the strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger to turn a corner. Worst of all, my fantastic PA, Sarah Shawcross, fell ill in Sardinia, was taken to hospital and will be again in London. She said her returning to work was unlikely. Fortunately, my ex-PA Natalie, who left after being conned by a crook she met on Sugardaddie.com, came back. Who said life was easy?
I don't know why you're surprised that eels caught in Somerset are sent to be smoked in Holland. You can smoke some very funny stuff there.
Bryan Craker, Provence, France
What an inspired idea, while at the Grand Hotel Park in Gstaad, to have a photo taken of the lovely Geraldine with a saint bernard. It looked a little grumpier than normal. Perhaps it had had to eat the scraps.
Ray Brown, Northampton
Enjoyed your report on the Grand Hotel Park. It was rubbish when I ate there too.
Nick John, Cardiff
We recently visited the Savoy Grill. We were sitting with guests in jeans and T-shirts. I've eaten in my local Pizza Express with better-dressed diners. Either the banquettes are too low or the tables too high. We sat hunched up over the plates. The waiting staff were cheerful but their lack of professionalism was apparent. I was given a "happy birthday" ice cream with a candle. My birthday is in June. It was suggested I eat it anyway, but I declined.
Derry Dinkin, Surrey
We stayed at the four-star Imperial hotel in Torquay. On arrival, our party of 12 pensioners were advised we couldn't eat dinner there because of private parties. We were told to go out: "There are plenty of places to eat in Torquay!" When we booked, no one said we couldn't have dinner!
Marilyn Jobson-Scott, Devon
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