Published 16 November 1997 Style Magazine 227th article
Boys in blue: Roger Moore and Michael Winner with Hiromi Mitsuka at Shogun (Kristina Tholstrup)
One of my great successes is that I have managed to remain unfashionable. Thus I have avoided going out of style. I have lived through decade after decade making my contribution to the world: eccentric, even perverse, never invisible. I remain totally uninterested in the latest restaurant. I have not visited Bluebird, never even got to Quaglino's. I am delighted, when asked my view of the current "in" place, to reply that I know nothing of it.
Once in this column I decided to go to the newly opened Nobu, the Japanese thing at the Metropole Hotel. I told the Style editor, so surprising was this notion. He informed me that A A Gill had just gone - would I wait six weeks before offering my own description? So when my friend Roger Moore recently suggested Nobu, I felt I'd been there in spirit; there was no point in going in the flesh.
Rog was feeling like a bit of Japanese. He suggested Shogun, buried behind the Britannia Hotel in Mayfair. This was once terribly fashionable, largely with people in the music business. I had been there with a rock star, but so long ago I had no real memory of it.
Shogun is entered through a small door in what looks like the back of an ill-designed council block. You descend into a cellar of indeterminate style, reminiscent of French existentialism in the 1950s. Edith Piaf could have sung there, or Juliette Greco. With a bit more cigarette smoke and a few people in blue and white horizontal sweaters, it would have been a perfect place for Gene Kelly in one of those magical MGM musicals. In fact, it was full of Japanese - I suppose a good sign, even if they were sitting on Italian cane and wood chairs that looked as if they came from a sale of stock from the Trattoria Terraza.
We waited a very long time for a waitress to pay us any attention. My Coca-Cola was served in an extremely narrow glass. The lady in charge is a handsome lass, Hiromi Mitsuka. I've never mastered chopsticks, or had any interest in them. I asked for a spoon and fork for my sushi. "You can use your fingers," said Hiromi. "But, for you, I get spoon and fork." She returned and said I was doing very well as I struggled to put horseradish into the soya-sauce bowl.
"What's that. Roger?" I said of some liquid.
"Don't ask me," he said. "It's the sauce that goes with it." And to Vanessa, after a brief pause: "You notice how quickly he gives up on chopsticks? They impede the progress of food to the gullet."
The waitress took my dirty fork and spoon and put them aside to be used again. This may be fashionable in the Far East, but I hate it. Why should I sit looking at dirty cutlery and then use it, all congealed, to eat the next course? "New fork," I said, handing fork and spoon back. Vanessa and Rog seemed not to mind using their Chopsticks again.
Rog looked round the room. "You look good in this light," he said to me. "Anyone looks good in this light, even Darth Vader, sitting behind you." He indicated a squat figure of a Japanese warrior in armour lodged by the wall.
I then had tempura fish with tempura sauce. Excellent. Rog had chicken teriyaki with soya beans. He liked that. Vanessa had salmon grilled with sake sauce. Then Hiromi brought us a big bowl of fresh fruit. "Mr Moore, I hope you can manage this," she said.
"I'm not meant to eat fruit after a meal, but what the hell," murmured Rog, tucking in.
Vanessa uttered rare words of praise. "Lovely meal," she said. "I'm very pleased," said Rog. "After all those lousy meals you're subjected to. And then you're forced to take a photo. I don't know why you don't just have a belch and go home."
As I'd left the camera behind, a few weeks later Roger, his lovely Kristina and I dropped in on our way to The Ivy. Vanessa was otherwise engaged. "Kristina can take the photo, as long as she gets a credit," said Roger.
I was thinking of the ruck I'd made in the lobby of the Sheraton Park Tower when picking up my guests. A large linen delivery truck blocked the inner road entrance. "Looks like an industrial estate out there!" I said loudly to the people behind the reception desk. "Aren't guests' cars allowed in?"
For good measure, I ran my handkerchief along a number of surfaces in the lobby, which had been thick with dust a couple of years before. They were totally clean. Ah well, you can't win them all.
I am hoping to celebrate the millennium by collecting written replies from the 1,000 most influential and famous people in this country. Michael Winner qualifies on two counts for inclusion on my list: first, as an established film director, and second, as a bon viveur. I look forward to his reply.
Ellen Musgrave, Chandler's Ford, Hampshire
I was amazed at Louise Bartlett's suggestion that the writer of a star letter each week should be rewarded with a meal with Michael Winner (Style, October 26). In fact, if a prize letter were to be chosen, then I think a meal at the restaurant most recently slated by Mr Winner would be a better idea. At least one would have the satisfaction of knowing that one was completely in accord with the management on at least one subject.
EM Price, Dundee
Yet again I write to protest at Mr Winner's uncouth behaviour (Style, October 26). On complaining about his cramped accommodation and being told that nothing else was available, he exploded (alas, only figuratively): "Throw people out! Move people around!" Though Mr Winner believes he is a gastronomic god, not even God acted so when there was no room at the inn.
Charles Flood, London SW15