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Today's special is snails - they will bring your food

Published 21 October 2012
News Review
1,004th article



Michael with his chauffeur, Julian Whatley, outside the Hilton Kensington (Dinah May)

Made a bit of a mistake. I meant to go to the Hilton Olympia, where they had a buffet lunch, but I ended up in the Hilton Kensington, where they did not.

The two Hiltons are the ugliest, most obscene blots on the landscape. My assistant Dinah May and I (Geraldine was in Paris) entered what is laughably known as the Avenue Bar. The menu advised: “Food and drink right up your street . . . with fresh ingredients tasting yummy and succulent and crunchy.”

Dinah asked: “What’s a Philly sandwich?”

The eastern European waitress, who spoke no known language, said: “I know it’s good but I don’t know what it is.”

She went to find out. If she did, no report was given.

The chief man was making a cup of coffee, which he’d been doing for 20 minutes. It seemed we’d never get anything to eat. There was him and the girl who had no idea what they were serving. The man was making a work of art of his coffee, and then cleaning the edge of the cup with a cloth.

Dinah said: “Why didn’t the girl come back to us?”

She was making coffee now, too. Obviously this was a full-time occupation for the staff.

The man put two coffees on a tray.

“Can we order something?” I asked.

He said, “I’m coming to take your order”, which he wasn’t.

We grabbed some mixed Thai nuts from a glass on display. It was that or die of starvation.

After I was assured the clam chowder was home-made I said: “I’ll have that, and then I’ll have a hot dog with fried onions.”

Another coffee went by. They spend their lives there making coffee.

We’d had a soup spoon, two forks, a knife and a napkin for a while. I came to think there wasn’t going to be any use for them; they must have been there as table decoration. There was no sign of anything happening. If we hadn’t taken the nuts, we’d have been shrivelled corpses by now.

“Nobody gives a damn,” said Dinah.

“Is this clam chowder coming?” I asked the waiter.

“I’ll go and check in the kitchen,” he said and then walked off somewhere else. We’d been sitting there for half an hour and I was finding it hard to believe they had a kitchen. I don’t think Gordon Ramsay was there.

After 40 minutes my soup arrived. Undrinkable. Dinah liked the crab cakes. Based on what had happened so far, we wondered how long it would take to get a hot dog. I reckoned 2036 was a fair guess. I was losing the will to live.

“Can you see any movement anywhere?” I asked Dinah.

“No,” she replied, “but I’m looking.”

It was 2pm, an hour after we’d arrived, when my hot dog turned up. It was inedible rubbish.

Dinah gave up on her caesar salad, saying: “The chicken is absolutely terrible. The whole thing’s flooded with nasty mayonnaise. It’s terrible, absolutely awful.”

You have to put this place in context. It’s a soulless lounge and bar, part of a vapid hotel interior devoid of style or warmth. There could be a view of the tree-lined street outside but that’s been blocked off. What makes matters worse is that there used to be an excellent Chinese restaurant here managed by a pleasant Egyptian. That’s been replaced by endless coffee-makers and totally bland food. The whole point seems to be to make what is already anonymous totally dismal.

Hilton Hotels should be ashamed of itself. It’s a dreary group anyway. Only the Park Lane Hilton retains some pizzazz. I remember being there once and looking behind the desk. Employees were faced with a notice saying “Smile”. Good advice, but no one at the Hilton Kensington followed it.

PS: This week’s photo is outside the hotel showing my long-wheelbase Bentley Brooklands Mulliner, a special edition, of which this is No 87 of 100 made. I am with my chauffeur, Julian Whatley, who for 27 years was a Royal Marine. Fought all over the world. Tough training. Helps him deal with me.



  • From Ivor Shapiro, Lancashire:

    Hymie meets Moishe. Moishe says: “You and Becky have such a marvellous marriage. Tell me, how do you manage this?”

    Hymie responds: “Well, we eat out twice a week, every week, with candlelit dinners and good wine in romantic settings. I go on Tuesday nights and Becky goes on Thursday nights.”



    Michael’s missives

    You say customers at 2 Veneti are “unpretentious”. Have you considered that yellow Selfridges bags are quite pretentious compared with the red “sale” version? Do diners with the latter belong in the local greasy spoon?
    Ruth Shammah, Cheshire

    I’m not surprised Geraldine bowed out of lunch at 2 Veneti. You’re getting scruffier by the week. The charity shop togs are not improved by your skanky carpet slippers. Do try combing your hair for a change, and for goodness’ sake tuck your shirt in and turn your collar down. No wonder Dinah took you - you’d never find your way home.
    Roger Crowhurst, Somerset

    George Bernard Shaw may be dead but I see that his alter ego is still eating slices of hard peach and appalling ice cream.
    Peter Grundy, Newcastle upon Tyne

    Now we know it’s your (lack of) education that has you pontificating about “excellent meringue, rather hard slices of peach and appalling ice cream”. Fortunately the majority of us who live in the real world know George Bernard Shaw enjoyed brown bread and won the Nobel prize.
    Hugh McAree, Dubai

    Dinah looked lovely last week. The old bloke with her must have nicked my decrepit gardening fleece. Off to the shed to check if it has been returned. I can’t work the zip either.
    David Whitlock, Coventry