Published 4 November 2012 News Review 1,006th article
Michael with his assistant Dinah May, left, and Geraldine at Granger & Co (Ampare Mancero Ruix)
It was Rupert Brooke - or it could have been Rupert Bear or Babbling Brook - who said: “If I should die, think only this of me: / That there’s some corner of a foreign field / That is for ever England.”
In much the same way, there is some corner of Notting Hill that is for ever Australia. It is Granger & Co, a bright and cheery restaurant run by a man from down under. Then again, if there’s a part of Notting Hill that is not Australian, I am not aware of it.
Granger & Co, in Westbourne Grove, offers crispy duck, plums, star anise and citrus salad. Also fragrant fish curry, jasmine rice and cucumber relish, as well as other unusual dishes.
The restaurant declares that it provides “casual all-day dining. Classic Bill Granger dishes sit alongside vibrant, modern, produce-driven dishes with a decidedly Australian feel.”
You really know it’s an Australian venue, though, because everybody stands on their heads.
When I first went to Australia in 1970, with Ryan O’Neal and Michael Crawford, the country was hardly known to the world. There were little detached houses; it was docile and extremely pleasant. The antipodean restaurants you now find in Notting Hill are no less pleasant.
I chose the crispy duck salad, and crab soup with spiced corn and fresh lime and lemongrass, which was sensational. We washed it down with an organic Chablis. My dessert of buttermilk panna cotta, honeycomb and fresh cherries was excellent.
My nurse had a “lovely beefburger with beetroot salad, cucumber and onion”. I think she’d had too many drinks to describe it any further.
Regarding the owner, Bill Granger, others have raved: “There is something very contemporary in his simplicity . . . Whether it’s the food in his cookbooks, his cafes or at home, Bill . . . knows exactly what we love to eat . . . He is big down under and soon to be even bigger here.”
He looks extremely rugged in that sort of jolly Australian way, and is king of what is called the laid-back dining concept. That means you eat and lie down at the same time. This is extremely restful. Personally it suits me fine.
Times Books, in association with the Queen, David Cameron, six passing monks and a man who pretends to be a food critic, has now published Michael Winner’s Hymie Joke Book, a masterpiece of humour.
Although its cover price is £12.99, you can buy it through The Sunday Times Bookshop for just £9.99 on 0845 271 2135. If that is not a bargain, I know not what is.
If Christmas gives you a death wish, I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this offer and buy 100 copies, if not for your friends, then at least for your enemies.
Christmas is always a difficult time. I’ve never understood why people celebrate it at all. But if you are going to do so, then as well as giving out cards with pictures of reindeer, Santa Claus, sleighs and serial killers on them, give them this.
The book tells, with amazing wit and strategy, a number of jokes concerning our friend Hymie that have featured in The Sunday Times.
Isn’t it wonderful to think that Christmas will soon be upon us? That the jolly idiot with sleigh and reindeer making putrid faces all over the place will be exercising his wit and rugged features to no particular purpose at all? It’s an activity like that that makes me wonder why Christmas exists.
Hymie and Becky are killed in a car crash and end up in heaven. St Peter shows them around paradise, and it’s full of all the things Hymie was never allowed to indulge in on earth.
Hymie says: “Surely all this opulence will make me fat and unhealthy.”
To which St Peter replies: “This is heaven, my son. You may eat all you want, play all you want and do anything you want. You will never age or become unhealthy. This is heaven, where all is good.”
Hymie looks at Becky and says: “Oy vey, you stupid woman. If it wasn’t for all that low-fat rubbish you fed me, we could have been here 10 years ago!”
Clever, Mr Winner. Last week’s photo was taken by An Oldcrust — or was that just my aged eyes? Obviously your pseudonym. How fitting. Fine photograph to boot.
David Keeble, Staffordshire
I have never agreed with anything more than I have with your comments on “fine dining”. Last Saturday I inadvertently caught on TV three incredibly self-satisfied food critics solemnly discussing the merits of potatoes that had been dyed purple. Our case rests.
Mike Jones, London
Before you, or I, fall off the twig, I must get something off my chest. You are without doubt the most irritating and irritable man I know. It’s one of life’s mysteries, then, that I read your column before I even open the main paper. So please put another battery in the Dictaphone; I don’t want you to become “historic”.
Terry Smith, Kent
There is only one thing worse than "eating a load of tosh served up by idiots who consider themselves to be good cooks" and that’s "reading a load of tosh served up by an idiot who considers himself to be a good food critic".
Nick Jones, La Drome, France
Send letters to Winner’s Dinners, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST, or email email@example.com