I guess that's the way the fortune cookie crumbles
Published 23 May 2012 News Review 974th article
Michael with two of the waitresses at New Fortune Cookie in Bayswater (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)
A very famous Michelin-starred chef, when I said I was looking for a good Chinese restaurant, suggested New Fortune Cookie in Queensway, Bayswater. It’s next door to the Queens ice rink, where as a youth I saw Vivien Leigh apparently drunk. Later we learnt she had a terrible disease that made her appear drunk.
I turned up at the restaurant to find the owner, Kandy Tang - absent with flu - had chosen the entire menu for me. That I hate beyond belief. A delightful waitress introduced herself as Mandy.
“That’s not very Chinese,” I suggested.
She replied: “No, my Chinese name is Ling.”
I gave up. She served, at the instruction of “Mr Kandy”, little bits of cut-up pigeon. It must have died of triple starvation. Adequate at best.
Geraldine then went shopping for tamari sauce, because she can’t eat gluten, which normal soy sauce contains. If she eats gluten, she swells up and explodes into a thousand bits of flesh. This not only leaves me a grieving widower but also makes a terrible mess on the carpet.
I’d insisted on adding deep-fried pig’s intestines. A mistake. They were rubbery and awful. Geraldine returned without tamari sauce, so one of the waitresses kindly went out and found some. In the meantime we were served lobster with ginger and spring onion. Very ordinary.
After that Ling said: “Would you like to wait a few minutes?"
To which Geraldine replied: “No, he likes to eat all the time."
Or as Gordon Ramsay put it: “Keep throwing the food at Michael Winner; otherwise he has time to look up and slate the decor.”
So we got fish maw soup. So horrid, gooey and tasteless that they gave us vinegar and pepper to add to it. In the window the hanging crispy ducks looked good. I can’t remember if Mr Kandy ordered that or I did. Either way it was a mess. The duck was chopped so finely you couldn’t tell if it had crispy skin or not. It was so dry it was like eating sawdust.
Next I had bits of prawn sliced and mushy, with lotus leaves and mixed rice. Actively ghastly. Then came sweet and sour pork, which was tough and not much good. I was offered for dessert a chocolate milkshake with sticky rice ball and sesame seeds.
“Do you have toffee apples?” I asked. They did. That was the only good part of the meal. Around us Chinese people seemed to be having a good time eating food none of which resembled ours. My fortune cookie read: “You will be well looked after in old age.”
Geraldine’s said: “Exciting times ahead."
"That means I’m going to kick the bucket," I suggested. We both gave the meal a generous 2 out of 10.
Then the absent Mr Kandy annoyed me further: he’d said my meal was to be free. Ling could not be persuaded to give me a bill. So I coughed up all the cash I had - £50 - and gave it to her for the tronc, the pot that all staff share. Probably less than the meal would have cost. Definitely more than it was worth.
My recent ramblings about the Rolling Stones prompt me to ask: am I the only one who realises the Stones completely changed the dress code of our nation, and probably of the world? In the early 1960s everyone wore suits and ties. The Beatles, dressed by their manager, Brian Epstein, looked like bar mitzvah boys in dark blue suits, white shirts and thin black ties. Then along came the Stones clad as if from a jumble stall in mismatches, bit of this, bit of that. Stylish but unique. It took a while for some, but eventually jeans came in big time, plus casual wear that announced for young people: “I don’t want to dress like my father, a doctor or a lawyer; I want to be me.”
I’ve been dressing like that ever since. No one seems to understand it’s my very own social statement. Also, nearly all my shirts have short sleeves. This drives the elegant and beautiful Geraldine to distraction. “Bus drivers wear short sleeves,” she said to me in desperation.
“I wanted to be a bus driver,” I responded. “Failed the test.”
True story: my father, George, was listening to a tale of woe from his friend Charlie. "My son's a meshugana [madman]," said Charlie. "We've got this flat on the 12th floor and my son keeps saying he's going to commit suicide by throwing himself out of the window. I don’t know what to do."
My father thought for a second, then suggested: "Move to the ground floor."
From Kevin Normoyle, of Co Clare, Ireland. Hymie is involved in a motorway pile-up. When he wakes in the hospital the doctor says: “You’ll be fine, Mr Cohen, but sad to say your willy was chopped off in the wreck and we couldn’t find it. You’ve got £9,000 insurance compensation. We can build you a new one for £1,000 an inch. You’d better discuss with your wife what size she’d prefer.” Hymie agrees to consult his wife, Becky.
The doctor comes back the next day and asks: “What’s the decision?”
Hymie replies: “We’re having granite worktops.”
Glad you didn’t try the lasagne at Carluccio’s, which you reviewed last week. I did and it seemed to me it had been hanging around since the unification of Italy in 1861!
Lavinia Cartwright, London
Penne difficult to eat, chicken too hard, meringue impossible. You either need a liquidiser or new teeth. Quite possibly both.
Vance Kearney, Hertfordshire
The shirt you were wearing at Carluccio's triggered a timely reminder to get the faded old deck chairs out of the shed and start to brush off the cobwebs.
Jerome Carroll, Cyprus
Soup and a baguette with cheese and strawberry jam! Dinner at your house is akin to the Mad Hatter’s tea party. But, on reflection, that is what you usually end up reviewing.
Patrick Tracey, Carlisle
Is it a misprint or is the culinary delight known as "cheese and jam sandwich" just a favourite of hard-up food critics? Have one sent round to the doorman at Scott's - that will teach him to call you Michael!
Norman Ainsley, Kent
Every week I read Michael's missives and I'm shocked that all the letters contain nothing but insults. I think it’s about time your correspondents acquired some manners. What do you think, wrinkleponce?
Balu Anderson, Hampshire