It's unlikely that the balcony at 23 Via Cappello was really Juliet's, but round the corner at 3 Vicolo Scudo di Francia is definitely where I had lunch
Published 13 March 2011 News Review 921st article
Geraldine beneath Juliet's balcony in Via Cappello, Verona (Arnold Crust)
This broad, Juliet, stood on the balcony wailing, "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?" Not there, for sure. Otherwise she wouldn't be asking. Why didn't she just go into Via Cappello and accost passing strangers: "Have you seen that rat Romeo? He's meant to be here. Can't trust a Capulet these days."
It's possible Romeo may have been a Montague. Or Juliet may have been a Capulet. I can't be bothered to check my Shakespeare for Kiddies. It's unlikely that the balcony at 23 Via Cappello in Verona was really Juliet's balcony anyway. The Verona authorities suggest it was because they do weddings there in the house, and make a fortune from tourists clocking the spot where probably nothing happened.
Round the corner at 3 Vicolo Scudo di Francia is definitely where I had lunch. That may not attract the same tourist interest, but if you're in the area, go. The restaurant was Antica Bottega del Vino, a recently redecorated place with wine bottles and plates on the wall. The family that's had it for years has just sold it to some other Veronese folk.
I had a dish called risotto all'amarone. Journalists would come in from a nearby newspaper and by the time they got there that was all the restaurant had left. I was on time, but chose it anyway.
There was a big deal with Geraldine tasting the wine. Geraldine is greatly expert at wine tasting. She smells, swills, smells again, goes through the whole gamut of facial expressions. She could spin it out to a week if she set her mind to it. They should have an intermission and sell ice cream in the middle of her performance.
Not infrequently the finale has Geraldine declare, "Bouchonne", which means it's corked. Once, four bottles were bouchonne, one after the other. I had a three-course meal with coffee and liqueurs while it all went on.
Eventually the wine tasting ended, this time happily, and my piping hot risotto was put in front of me. The manager stood adjacent holding cheese and a grater.
"Should I have parmesan cheese?" I asked.
"I wouldn't," he replied. "It ruins the original taste." The portion was so big I left half of it.
Geraldine had sausages and beans for her main course. I got an enormous plate of braised meats accompanied by thinly sliced fried potatoes as I hate the advertised side order, which was polenta.
Geraldine looked at me critically. "He comes to the best restaurant in Verona and eats a plate of chips. Unbelievable," she remarked. She went on about it as I ate the potatoes.
The manager observed, "You're eating like a bird." I'd eaten all the potatoes and most of the meat.
"I'm eating like a pig," I told him. For dessert I was recommended coppa con crema di zabaione e amaretti. "I'll have that," I announced. I couldn't pronounce it but I ate it.
They're very proud of their wine; the family makes it or someone else makes it. It was a long story - my mind wandered.
"Would you like to see our wine cellar?" the manager asked.
"I don't do cellars," I replied. Geraldine said, "The only thing you do is chocolate cake and chips." She's got a point there.
The Wolseley is one of the best restaurant creations ever. An enormous credit to Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, the owners. I go there more than anywhere else.
The other Saturday I had, for the second time, the special of the day: Vijay's chicken curry.
My waiter said to me, "Was the curry a bit dry?" "It was diabolical," I replied. "What was wrong with it?" asked the waiter.
"Everything," I said. "Texture, taste - nothing worked." Jeremy King told me they had a chef, Vijay, who did curry, so the restaurant put it on the menu under his name.
Later I asked the waiter, "Is Vijay here today?" "He's just come in," said the waiter. "But it's 2.45pm," I protested. "Lunch service is largely over. Why wasn't he here to make his curry? Clearly no one else can." The waiter was silent.
The only other food disaster I've had in the seven years the Wolseley has been open was near the beginning when I was with a movie star and we ordered welsh rarebit. Beyond belief awful. I struggled through most of it.
Then the star said, "I can't be seen to leave food, Michael. You eat mine." He plonked his portion in front of me. That was a horrifically memorable experience.
The kitchen has got the welsh rarebit right now. If Vijay could be persuaded to come in when his special is on the menu, I'm sure the curry would be good, too. If he's not there, I'll order something else.
From Toby Roberts of Cheltenham: there are two gates to heaven. One has a sign, "For husbands who are henpecked"; the other, "Husbands who have not been henpecked". In front of this gate, all by himself, is Hymie.
A passing angel asks, "Are you certain you're waiting in the right place?" "I'm not sure," replies Hymie. "My wife told me to stand here."
You look sartorially elegant for once at the Palladium but the look is ruined by the pawn ticket sticking out of your left pocket.
Patrick Tracey, Carlisle
Your bus pass is sticking out of your jacket pocket. I know it costs an arm and a leg to fill up the motor, but surely the lovely Geraldine deserves better on a night out.
Howard Bentley, Lancaster
A shame you stayed only for the first 10 minutes of The Wizard of Oz. Were you worried they might find you a part as a Munch King?
Will Johnson, Suffolk
I took my 83-year-old parents to Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's for their birthday. The £30 set lunch menu was a disaster. The chicken starter was too cold; the fish, just a wet tablespoon. Both were tasteless. The main course of chargrilled beef was nouvelle cuisine gone mad. Four tiny circles of beef with teeny squares of decorative vegetables. For £276, including wine, it was a disgrace. We went home and had toast.
Jenny Boreham, Essex
We thought we'd try the Ivy Club post theatre. I emailed requesting access to the "exclusive club". No reply. We went along anyway and found very few guests but a terrific jazz trio. Six days later I got an email from the Ivy Club saying, "Sorry you can't come as it's members only." Customer service at its worst!
Alan Gray, Hertfordshire
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