Michael heads east into unfamiliar territory and finds an exceptionally good flan. But smoked mackerel has no place in a risotto, he says
Published 30 October 2011 News Review 954th article
Michael with Cristina Anghelescu at Rosemary Lane restaurant (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)
I've done my one-man show in some distinguished locations, including the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and Washington, London's National Film Theatre, Union halls of Oxford, Cambridge, Trinity Dublin, famous Hollywood cinemas. None of these places beats Wilton's Music Hall in Graces Alley, E1, where I perform for Times + members on November 8 and 17.
Wilton's was built in 1858 across a number of Georgian houses. It's in a state of disrepair, which gives it immense character. Restored (it needs £2.5m) it will be one of the wonders of London. It's a couple of blocks east of the Tower of London. Not my natural habitat.
I met some of the people running it as a venue for shows of all kinds: Frances Mayhew, the artistic director, and Filippo de Capitani, the bearded technical director. For talks, they rent it out set up for whatever show is playing there. The present one doesn't use the stage, so a stage is being built for me, backed by the wonderful paraphernalia of theatre props.
There's a marvellous bar - one of the houses was originally a pub - where I'll sign my books at an amazingly discounted price. Food and drink are on offer, too.
This is a hidden gem. Me and the theatre.
I'm told both my dates are sold out but I never believe anything. There are always people who don't turn up. Check it out at www2.seetickets.com/thesundaytimes. If you just arrive on the day I'll personally lay out some extra chairs for you. You're bound to get in. If you're coming by car, come early to sort out the one-way system and the parking. After 5.30pm Ensign Street, inches away, is okay for leaving cars.
There are many restaurants nearby. Geraldine and I went to Rosemary Lane in Royal Mint Street, about four minutes walk from Wilton's. It's an old pub turned into a restaurant. For nine years it's been owned by the chef, Cristina Anghelescu, and her husband. For a cabaret the Docklands Light Railway runs by on an overpass.
There was one east European waiter, efficient but overloaded. Cristina's husband, who told me he was the restaurant manager when I phoned, could occasionally be seen darting down some back stairs, leaving food on a side table for the waiter, then scampering back up as if the dining area terrified him.
"He's very shy," explained Cristina when she appeared.
I started with an exceptionally good English pea, mint and spring onion flan, garnis of shaved parmesan, mint leaves and fresh pea tendrils, lemon and olive dressing. A long time after ordering it nothing happened.
Geraldine said, "I like this place." "I would if they served food," I responded.
After the flan came a fantastic freebie of mango and raspberry frappe. I hated my hot smoked mackerel and fresh herb risotto. I don't think smoked mackerel is any good for a risotto. The rice was big and glumpy. Most risottos are made with arborio or carnaroli rice so the liquid can soak in. Smoked mackerel does not soak. I prefer vialone nano rice, which has smaller granules, cooks faster (a plus) and absorbs condiments better.
"What's going on?" I hear you ask. "Winner seems to know what he's talking about." An error not to be repeated, I assure you.
My dessert was red elephant ear plums, fresh ginger, brown sugar crumble. Pretty good.
PS There are more than 6,000 varieties of rice. I'll choose them as my Mastermind subject and make a complete idiot of myself.
A performance "must" is now followed by a literary super-must. I refer, with customary modesty, to my new book, Tales I Never Told!, available from Sunday Times Books, inc p&p, for £13.99, instead of its retail price of £16.99. It contains stories - some highly scurrilous - I've so far only told at dinner to a select few.
I've thrown caution to the wind. This masterpiece of indiscretion also includes the last year of Winner's Dinners reviews and my annual awards, to be handed out by Sir Roger Moore, Lord Lloyd-Webber, Sir Michael Parkinson, Sir Tim Rice and Carol Vorderman at a champagne party at London's Belvedere restaurant this Tuesday.
Sunday Times Books is actually called Sparkle Direct. Dozens of little sparkly fairies and elves under the lovely Fairy Queen Kelly Sara are waiting to serve you when you phone 0845 271 2135. If you tell them what you'd like me to write on a sticker to go in the book - name, message - I'll cartoon it too, then they'll send you a label. Value beyond belief.
Sorry you're not asked to the book launch on November 1. I'm afraid you just aren't a member of the glitterati. I, on the other hand, glitter so brightly I'll soon be joining Queen Kelly in flogging and packaging books for you.
Hymie, sitting next to a Muslim on a plane, has just been served a whisky.
The stewardess asks the Muslim if he'd like a drink. He replies in disgust, "I'd rather be raped by a dozen whores than let liquor pass my lips."
Hymie hands his drink back and says, "Me too. I didn't know we had a choice."
I was very disappointed to see Michael going by train, Eurostar or not, sitting with two cans of Diet Coke in front of him and a tray that no butler would be seen dead serving. I know he's heavily in debt but this is beyond ridiculous. I suppose we'll see him hitchhiking next. These are sad times indeed.
Shauna Simpson, Cheshire
As well as a load of old tat surrounding Michael Winner on Eurostar, I seemed to spot a plastic bottle of expensive Evian water. Does Michael not realise that Evian spelt backwards reads Naive?
Tony Baker, Dublin
Ever since you've been stepping out with Geraldine she seems to be getting younger every week. Can you have this effect on other people as well? Or is it your magical camera?
Adam Osborn, Malaga, Spain
Like Michael, we've all been interrupted by waiter dialogue. The favourite ploy, which waiters seem specially trained to use, is to ask if everything is all right only when you have a mouthful of food. Do they spy round the corner, just waiting for the opportune moment?
Marjorie Davey, Bridlington
Like you, I too have experienced difficulty hearing what was being said by people across the table at restaurants. I then discovered an incredible device. It's called a hearing aid. This will solve all your problems.
Clive Wallis, Eastbourne
Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST or email email@example.com