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Red card at the ready in the land of footballers' wives

Published 31 January 2010
News Review
863rd article

Michael with Alan Fitzsimmons, left and Eamonn Phelan at Stanneylands (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

Wilmslow is footballers' wives territory. As I arrived for my TV show Michael Winner's Dining Stars, a £400,000 Rolls Phantom glided by. It's a dull shopping area enlivened by glittery shops.

For lunch, Rob, a stylist at Flanagans hairdressers, recommended Forty-Four. He'd eaten there with famous footballers. I went with Dinah, my hairdresser/assistant, and Joan Hills, my make-up lady. When you get to my age and you're on telly, you need such support.

The waitress, Sophie, 19, had a diamond set in her nose. She assured me everything was fresh.

I asked, "Are the French-style peas fresh?"

"They're fresh in today," replied Sophie.

"Were they actually taken from a pod in your kitchen?" I queried.

"Yeah," said Sophie. "They get delivered every day."

I said, "Now let's turn to the fish and chips with minted peas. These are crushed peas . . ."

"They're purified peas; they get flattened down," explained Sophie.

I said, "They come in a packet, don't they?"

"They come from a delivery," responded Sophie.

"So they're not fresh, they're not opened in the kitchen," I continued.

"No, but they come in every day," said Sophie. "They come in prepared." So of course they weren't fresh.

The conversation with Sophie about various menu items, if fully reported, would be longer than a Jackie Collins novel. Sophie held her ground. But it seemed nothing was fresh except for the fish pie and roast chicken pie, which, she assured me, were made on the premises. If so there's no one in the kitchen who knows how to make chicken pie. The pastry was undercooked and pale. The chicken was shredded and tasteless.

Come dessert time and Sophie again informed me everything was made freshly in the kitchen. Somehow I doubted that. I had lemon and lime cheesecake with marinated oranges and vanilla syrup. It tasted bought-in. As if it had been in the deepfreeze overnight. The cheesecake part had gone into the base, making it soggy.

They took our napkins after the main course and brought no new ones for dessert. All this was filmed. You won't see it because the production company, 12 yard (I call them half a millimetre), failed to get a signature authorising filming when we came in. You have to do that otherwise you give a restaurant time to think about it, decide the meal didn't go well and decline to sign at the end. Didn't matter, because events we shot in the streets and shops of Wilmslow were hilarious.

  • As I rose at 6.30am to be ready for make-up and hair at 8am and filming ended around midnight, I had an hour's rest before I met my housewife hostess for dinner. One rest period was at Stanneylands hotel in Wilmslow. Eight years earlier I'd slated it big time. The Irish manager, Eamonn Phelan, greeted me like an old friend. The owner, Liam Walsh, phoned to check I was all right. I was surprised they let me in. It's a nice hotel, although I hadn't enjoyed the food. It's probably better now.

    Matt Walton, executive producer, had booked a suite for the night at the Midland hotel in the centre of Manchester.

    "Why," I asked, "do I have to drive at least 45 minutes from here through traffic lights and wiggly streets of Manchester, and then in the morning rush hour back to the next location through crowded city streets, when close to here is the M6 motorway that takes us straight to Longridge? I waste 1&frac; hours travelling; ITV has to pay the driver longer hours. What genius thought of that?"

    "The production manager reckoned it was the same distance," said Matt.

    "If it is, which I doubt, the same distance through a town centre is not the same as driving on a motorway," I explained patiently.

    "Would you rather stay here, Mr Winner?" Matt replied testily.

    "Of course," I said. "Saves time, cheaper accommodation for me, Dinah and Joan; perfectly okay for a night." So I stayed at Stanneylands.

    The next day a local driver, Alan Fitzsimmons, had a much easier trip to Longridge. I should give courses on how to run location film shoots. If the series doesn't reach everyone's high expectations, I may have to.

  • I'd just finished an excellent shepherd's pie at the Ivy when I saw the dreaded pip-squeak, fat little squirt, balding theatrical agent Julius Schmulius. He slimed around a few tables. I said to Nicholas Cowell (brother of Simon), with whom we were dining, "I'm going to look intently at you, Nicholas, because I don't want him to speak to me."

    I was doing just that, with my left hand on the table, when a clammy hand was placed on mine. I looked round-a puffed-up face said, "Julius Schmulius," (not even his real name) and he waddled off. That gave me a turn, I can tell you.

  • Joke from the Ritz doorman, Michael O'Dowdall: how do you turn a dishwasher into a snowmobile? Give her a shovel.

    Michael's missives

    New year's dinner at Sandy Lane was beyond historic. Julius Schmulius was everywhere. Not at the best tables. They seemed to be reserved for a grumpy grey-haired man who didn't show up.
    Andrew Michaels, London

    I was not impressed by a recent lunch at Sandy Lane. My daughter reckoned she could prepare a more flavoursome shepherd's pie and with much more meat in it. Hers had a thimble full!
    Jenny Harper, West Sussex

    My wife told your "squirt" Julius Schmulius he was a rude little man after he interrupted her conversation with the Sandy Lane concierge three times. And he wasn't even a resident. He stays somewhere cheaper down the road.
    Barry McKay, Berkshire

    Pray tell, in last week's photo, how much did you pay to have the ferns droop over the faces of your two younger standees while they left your overtanned puss unmasked?
    Ted Wynne, London

    I explained to my bank manager I needed £44,000 to hire a Gulfstream to Miami even though I'm £3m in debt. He gave me a blank look. What have you got that I haven't? What's your bank manager's name?
    John Pannell, Hampshire

    Quiet and drunk-free New Year's Eve in Miami? Are you sure you hadn't gone out on December 30 by error?
    Nick Jones, Provence, France

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