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I said move heaven and Earth ... not Dorset

Published 15 April 2012
News Review
977th article



Michael and Geraldine with Brian Stein, far left, and Bill Wyman at PJ's (Platina Tong)

Brian Stein, who you’ve never heard of, owns this'n'that. Sticky Fingers, Cafe de Paris, the Jewish blind school. He might be distantly related to Hymie through his aunt’s niece once removed. If the niece is like my relatives, she should be totally removed.

To be serious (why?), Brian, a charming man, also owns PJ’s, a brasserie in Fulham Road. I was asked there to lunch with Brian, his beautiful Chinese lady friend Platina Tong, Mr and Mrs Bill Wyman (Mrs didn’t show), plus the elegant and lovely Geraldine Lynton-Edwards.

It’s an attractive room that has a bar with a clock behind it and a royal crest. Are you royalty, Brian? You kept that quiet. There’s reddish wood, slatted floors, mirrors; it looks like an old pub. Photos of polo on the wall. Brian plays polo. He’s cracking on but game.

I asked the waiter if they could squeeze some oranges for me.

“We get it in freshly squeezed,” he responded. That’s absolute rubbish: it comes in plastic containers — not fresh in any known language. They squeezed some for me.

Bill Wyman entered. Thankfully he’d stopped dyeing his hair jet black. It’s delightfully grey-white with a brown patch at the back.

“Is that a moustache?” I asked.

Bill replied: “I haven’t shaved for a week.”

PJ’s produced Kingsdown water. I complained. I’d already complained about the orange juice.

“Difficult, isn’t he?” observed Brian.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” I told him.

I started with classic caesar salad. Very good but it took for ever to arrive. Bill got a mushroom risotto with glumpy slices of cheese on top. He can’t tolerate coffee or cheese. Normally they give you the risotto and then ask if you want cheese on it. A delay while it was changed.

I ordered a White Park beef sirloin steak medium rare with béarnaise sauce. Francesco Manzari, the restaurant manager, said: “It’s a rare breed from the north of England.”

“Where in the north of England?” asked Bill. “Is it from near Carlisle?”

Francesco had no idea. This was like asking him about atomic fusion.

Bill persisted: “Is it over Hadrian’s Wall — that side or this side?”

“He can find out where it comes from. Make a phone call,” I advised.

Francesco returned and said: “The beef is from Dorset.”

“I’ve got news for you,” I said. “Dorset is not in the north of England.”

Brian said: “He’s Italian. They always get the north and the south confused.”

My steak came just before I died from old age.

Francesco asked: “How are you enjoying your food so far?”

Brian immediately responded: “Very good, thank you.”

“He’s the owner,” I announced. “What do you think he’s going to say?”

The steak was first rate, very tasty. I don’t know what the taste was but it was unusual and a delight. Bill loved his risotto. I finished with marvellous apple and walnut crumble with rum and raisin ice cream.

The food at PJ’s is excellent. But the service — oh dear. We came in at 1pm. By 2.30pm I didn’t even have my dessert. And the place was far from full. If it’s busy, bring a tent, because it’ll be an overnighter. Sorry for taking the mickey, Brian. But as the saying goes: you shouldn’t join if you can’t take a joke.

PS: Bill was speaking of the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones. He stopped playing with them years ago. They want him back for the anniversary tour. Bill, wisely, said he didn’t want to tour; why not have a single concert at Madison Square Gardens, New York, sell it to HBO and take the money without having to go round boring hotels? If it happens that way, it’ll be the first scoop I’ve ever had. I’d prefer a scoop of vanilla ice cream.



  • My asparagus soup at Bar Boulud was horrific. The whole meal was under par. It’s a terrific place, beautifully run, but the cooking is erratic. That’s where Chris Corbin and Jeremy King have the edge. Their places are consistent.

    When I complained about the Wolseley’s white linen napkins leaving bits of white on my clothing, readers deluged me with letters naming restaurants that always provide black napkins if you’re wearing dark clothes.

    Jeremy texted his manager: “Tell the old curmudgeon we’ve always had black napkins available.”

    Nobody’s ever told me. How can I ask for something I don’t know is there?



  • From Mark Grabowski in West Sussex; Hymie is cleaning his new Volvo. Abe, passing by, says: "I see you got rid of the old banger, then."

    Hymie replies: "No, the wife's still with me."



    Michael's missives

    Next time I visit the Royal Opera House you must accompany me. For the first time I’ll be able to have a relaxing drink in the Crush bar, as your photo shows the stalls audience seems to have fled on your arrival.
    Patrick Tracey, Carlisle

    Nice to see Geraldine looking so lovely with her escort. How did you persuade the Phantom of the Opera to pose?
    Norman Wheatley, Kent

    In a BBC episode of Hustle, the mark asked for his steak to be well done. Cutting into it, he complained: “This steak is so rare a good vet could have it back on its feet in no time.” To me the funniest food comment ever. Unless your readers can come up with a better one.
    Steve Wells, Derby

    Benihana in King’s Road, Chelsea, wins my award for the worst restaurant ever. With main courses costing up to £65, the food was atrocious. The teppanyaki table chef joked that the ingredients were from Tesco. I was so embarrassed that when the bill came I had to hide it from my wife.
    Edward Gretton, London

    You said the black cod in Novikov was one of the best main courses you’d ever eaten, but that it was just “a piece of cod, for heaven’s sake”. Could this be the piece of Cod which passeth all understanding?
    Geoff Embleton, Surrey