Michael hands out the gongs to Winner’s Winners - but, alas, his
long-suffering dining partner misses out at this serious bash
Published 6 November 2011 News Review 955th article
Michael at the Winner's Dinners Awards at the Belvedere with, from left, Sir Michael Parkinson, Sir David Frost, Lord Lloyd-Webber, Sir Roger Moore and Sir Tim Rice (Dwayne Senior)
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to the Belvedere restaurant. Thus the chosen among the multitude gathered last Tuesday in Holland Park for the greatest social event of the decade. The delivery, by important stars of the constellation, of the coveted (or reviled) Winner's Dinners Awards, combined with the book launch (rather late) of my tome Tales I Never Told!. Not for the assembled throng the usual horrific dinner followed by endless speeches and the chairman of some brewery company, who sponsored the event, giving out lesser honours. This was a Laurent-Perrier champagne bash with canapés by the Belvedere's chef, Gary O'Sullivan. A fun party with cabaret.
Oh the excitement of it all. The paparazzi, the celebs in the audience - Jane Asher, Zoe Wanamaker and Danielle Hope, who plays Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, to name but six. Plus the sight of Winner in his bedraggled dotage.
Twelve awards were handed out in 20 minutes. Sir Roger Moore started with a lifetime achievement award for Sir Terence Conran. Although he owns few restaurants after handing over control of his empire in a management buyout, Conran changed the whole concept of dining. I started this column to get revenge on Terry after a sniffy letter he wrote me when I complained about Le Pont de la Tour. We made up and I'm delighted to acknowledge his contribution to design, to retail and to life in general.
Roger then awarded best hotel to the Gstaad Palace, a grand, friendly, fake castle on a hill overlooking the town. Marvellous ambiance, snow-clad mountains (except in summer). Best hotel chef went to its affable, superb food-producer, Peter Wyss.
Lord Lloyd-Webber mounted the podium, not a huge climb, to give best restaurant in London to Fergus Henderson for his St John hotel. Tasty, simple cooking, no plate decoration. This was followed by the best club in London award to Richard Caring for Annabel's. I dined there recently - impeccable style and food. Best fish restaurant went to Tetou - a hut on the beach in Golfe-Juan near Cannes. Pierre-Jacques Marquise and his family offer fantastic bouillabaisse and, in winter, fried beignets with big jars of home-made jam.
Sir Tim Rice handed most fun restaurant in London to Jeremy King and Chris Corbin for my personal favourite, the Wolseley. Soon J&C open the Delaunay in Aldwych. Simon Girling of the Ritz hotel on Piccadilly got best restaurant manager. He's understated, quiet, supremely professional.
Sir Michael Parkinson joined the delights to give Bibendum, the award for most comfortable restaurant with best acoustics. It's rare to be able to hear the people you're dining with. It was collected by its co-owner Sir Terence Conran.
Maurizio Saccani, vice-president of Orient-Express hotels Italy, got best hotel boss. His Cipriani in Venice, Splendido in Portofino and Villa San Michele in Florence are beyond belief fantastic.
We were to have the glamour girl with the phenomenal IQ. She with a Mensa score of 167. Apparently, 140 is rated a genius. I got 3 and was chucked out of the Jewish Blind School. But Carol Vorderman was indisposed, weight of brain too much to bear. Luckily Sir David Frost was knocking back the champers so he presented best London doormen to the Ritz hotel. They're polite, efficient and smart. Dean Lambrecht took time off from opening car doors to accept.
The final award went to the Reubens family for best delicatessen, Reubens of Baker Street. My chauffeur collects its takeaway food that wafts me back to the great delis of New York.
I was planning an award to the tolerant (sometimes), beautiful (always) Geraldine Lynton-Edwards/Winner, for the lady who has to put up with the worst eating companion in the world. But these are serious awards. No frivolity permitted.
Following this historic event the presenters were drugged and dragged the short distance to my mansion, soon to be sold (got £80m, have you?) to keep me in worn pyjama bottoms. They were force-fed chicken and beef stroganoff, salad, Wolseley cheesecake, single roundlets of Marine Ices vanilla, fruit salad, fine wines. Brilliant hostessing by Geraldine L-E, a pathetically lethargic contribution from MW, fine catering by Phil and Shirley Crowther with help from my cook, Lulu Brown. An evening that thrilled all and sundry. Particularly sundry, who drank too much and had to be excused washing up.
Would you could have been there. But you weren't asked. Something to aspire to next year.
This from my ace Hollywood cinematographer, Richard Kline: Hymie is on the phone to his friend Abe. Suddenly the line to Abe is lost. Hymie phones the operator to complain. He says, "Operator, I was in mid conversation with someone, they've vanished. What's going on?" The operator says, "Well, you were cut off."
Hymie said, "I know. That happened when I was a baby. But it hasn't affected my hearing before."
Please do up the top button of your jacket. Then ask Geraldine to tuck your shirt into your trousers. This could prove to be another winning formula in your ongoing rejuvenation.
Andy Turney, Dorset
I don't understand how Michael would order smoked mackerel risotto before remembering, "I don't think smoked mackerel is any good for risotto."
Brian Highley, Devon
I see Texas prisons have stopped serving lunch at weekends and now serve brunch to save costs. In view of your debts perhaps Geraldine could introduce a similar scheme for you if you misbehave.
Martin Langley, Surrey
Making deliveries in Grassingham I passed a road sign warning me of pheasants. Suddenly a brown flash and a tremendous bang on my windscreen. Looking in my rear-view mirror I saw the poor creature drop lifeless into the pick-up body of my truck. When I got home my son said, "I'll take it to someone I know." He later presented me with two breast steaks. I cooked one of them slow pan-fried in butter with onions, garlic and unsliced bread. The result was tough and tasteless. I have one left. What should I try it with?
Chris Gabbott, Rochdale
In spite of what he supposes
Winner's not as benign as his poses
Such consummate greed
Serves no proper need
Except what you spread on the roses.
Al Hawkes, Staffordshire
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