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Quite the loveliest Tony Blair mausoleum in town

Published 20 May 2012
News Review
982nd article

Michael and Geraldine at the Phoenix Palace with the general manager, David Chan, and three waitresses (Kenny Au Yeung)

It's impossible to find the Phoenix Palace Chinese restaurant. It's in a no-man's-land north of Marylebone Road that should be blown up and destroyed. It could be replaced with a wildlife park: hyenas, elephants, pterodactyls, hedgehogs - you know the sort of thing.

Eventually, stuck in Baker Street, I phoned the restaurant. The general manager, David Chan, found us and led us to his gaff in Glentworth Street. He then got into the driver's seat of my Bentley and drove off. He wasn't seen for hours.

"I hope the car's all right," I said to Geraldine.

As you enter the Phoenix Palace you're confronted by the Tony and Cherie Blair mausoleum. There are photographs of them, signed Christmas cards, signed this, signed that, all expressing their deep admiration for the Phoenix Palace and all who sail in her.

I went off Tony Blair in May 2006 when the secretary for appointments, William Chapman, wrote on Downing Street paper to say the prime minister (that's Tone) intended to have me on Her Majesty's birthday honours list as an OBE.

I wrote by hand on the letter: "Thank you, I do not want this particular award. I will continue my good work as before."

This produced another letter from Chapman informing me the prime minister was sorry but would respect my wishes. I mentioned this to my neighbour, the lyricist Don Black. He seemed surprised.

"But I've got an OBE; so has Joan Collins," he said.

"Exactly, Don," I replied. "My case rests."

I now have printed on all my notepaper Michael Winner, MA (Cantab), OBE (offered but rejected). Well, it amuses me.

At the Phoenix Palace, once past the Tone and Cher fan club site you enter a large restaurant - full of Chinese people - done out with carved screens, porcelain pots and those strange paintings so beloved of ethnic eateries.

We got some jasmine tea, which was nice. I ordered pork spare ribs with honey sauce, crispy aromatic duck, egg fried rice, dim sum and prawn rolls. All extremely average. The rolls, the dim sum and the pancake with the duck were uniformly chewy and rubbery. The one thing I loved was the fried crispy seaweed. I could have eaten that for ever.

My finale was toffee apples with a very pleasant green tea ice cream.

I was cutting up a toffee apple, which was sticky and gooey, when Geraldine said: "You should pick them up with your fingers."

"I've never seen anyone pick up a toffee apple with their fingers. If they're on the end of a stick then yes, otherwise no," I responded.

To prove she was right, Geraldine threw a used towel at me. It was meant to illustrate the point. What point, I don't know.

PS: To be fair, I will report that Geraldine loved everything and referred to the Phoenix Palace as "a breathtaking oriental gem, the best Chinese restaurant in London". Not my view. But what do I know?

  • People write to me saying: "Why is there no DVD of your movie Hannibal Brooks, or of The Jokers?" Hannibal has now been released by MGM as a special edition. Before that it was available from Amazon and other internet suppliers but the copies were pirated. They were taken off television, so the quality was dreadful. I bought some.

    The Jokers has never been released on DVD by Universal, which made it. Some problem with the music rights, I was told. So there is no proper version of The Jokers. But it's available everywhere. No seller advises buyers that it's an inferior, pirated copy.

    I've bought it on Amazon and on eBay. All copies are inferior. A lot of them actually have the logo of the TV company transmitting the movie. I would have thought that, apart from being odd, it is contrary to trading standards law to sell something buyers would think was a genuine DVD prepared by the studio of origin when it isn't.

    A lovely lady called Julia who managed to get all my movie posters has dedicated herself to getting good copies of The Jokers. She's acquired them from all over the world, the seller often assuring her they were perfect. None of them was.

  • From Joana Kanska in London. Becky and Hymie are in bed. Hymie is falling asleep.

    Becky says: "When we were courting, you used to hold my hand."

    Hymie holds her hand for a second then tries to get back to sleep.

    Becky says: "And then you used to kiss me."

    Hymie gives her a peck on the cheek and tries to return to sleep.

    Becky says: "And then you used to bite my neck."

    Angrily, Hymie throws back the covers and gets out of bed.

    "Where are you going?" asks Becky. "To get my teeth," Hymie replies.

    Michael's missives

    I notice you frequently refer to your dining companions as "my friend Leslie Bricusse/Roger Moore/Michael Caine" etc. Is that because you sometimes eat with strangers? Or perhaps enemies? Can I bring my friend David Beckham/the Archbishop of Canterbury/Prince William along? If so, I'm available any day next week.
    Tim Burton, Berkshire

    Regarding your photo taken at La Colombe d'Or, your shirt looks very much like the Mozambique football strip (away matches).
    Leo Armitage, Sunderland

    Recently arriving at Heathrow from Dubai, I expected hours of queuing. To my horror I was off the plane and by the luggage reclaim belt before the thing had whirred into action! I was nowhere near ready for such efficiency. What's going on? Who's to blame?
    Ed Atkinson, Dubai

    So, Michael, it is true - you are a snob! You will not admit that Blackbushe is in Hampshire, not so-called upmarket Berkshire. Are you so drunk that you do not know where you are about to land?
    James Munro, Le Tonkin, France

    In your report on La Colombe d'Or, you never mentioned how many millions it cost you. This must be age taking its toll.
    Fred Beckett, Cheltenham

    Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST, or email michael.winner@sunday-times.co.uk