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Putting on the Ritz

Published 21 April 2002
Style Magazine
458th article

All tied up: from left, Eddie Adanir, Michael Winner and David Smith (Georgina Hristova)

I like traditional English Sunday lunch. A roast, some vegetables, a nice pud - you know the sort of thing. My cook, Donata, does a good roast duck, perfectly reasonable beef and a historic pear-and-almond tart. Her chocolate brownies are near momentous. Her creme caramel is Georgina's favourite.

Housekeepers no longer like working on Sunday. Very few are prepared to work weekends at all. Not like the old days, when you could send eight-year-old boys up the chimney to sweep it any day of the week. I only ask Donata for Sunday lunch one week in three. This leaves me desperate to find good English fare on a Sunday, a day many restaurants are closed.

I'm not keen to have my guests insulted by Gordon Ramsay's arrogant restaurant manager, Dominic Corolleur, at Claridge's. A pity, because Claridge's used to be my favourite. The Dorchester Grill is fine. The Connaught is all right but gloomy. Which leaves the Ritz in Piccadilly as one of the few grand Sunday-lunch places left.

The room, kitsch and gilt gone mad, is enormous and wonderfully camp. There are metal chandeliers with swags and garlands. Clouds and blue sky are painted on the ceiling. There are great marble columns. It's the last major dining room in London. You have to wear a tie, but I'm capable of that under duress. Georgina kept saying: "Who are you nodding at?"

"I'm not nodding," I replied. "I'm just moving my head and neck about like a horse trying to get out of its harness."

I phoned the Ritz restaurant to book a table. Christele answered. "My name's Michael Winner, I'd like to speak to the restaurant manager," I said. "He's not here," said Christele. "Who is he?" I asked. "Eddie Adanir," said Christele. "He'll be in at 11. Would you like to make a reservation with me?" "I'd like to speak to Mr Adanir," I said, "because he'll know who I am." "I know who you are," responded Christele. Then she said: "What's your name?" Eventually, I got Eddie, dressed up posh, and went to see him.

Eddie's from Turkey. He's actually the deputy restaurant manager. The restaurant manager moved recently to a front-of-house position. Eddie's hoping to take over. I ordered a buck's fizz. It contained less champagne than any I've ever received. "You can see there's no bubbles in it," Georgina observed.

She started with taglierini of Scottish smoked salmon, dill and caviar cream. She liked that. I had crab cakes. Within seconds, some of them had fallen onto my excellent tie from Harvey & Hudson of Sackville Street.

My main-course roast beef from the trolley was greatly enhanced by a black blob I noticed, half-hidden. "What's that?" I asked. It was the fat they'd cut off the beef. In most restaurants it's thrown away. But here it was, crisp and sitting there. I ordered a few slices. It made the meal. They kindly did some pommes soufflees for me. They were a bit greasy, but it was a brave attempt.

There was a chestnut blanc with marrons glaces on the dessert menu. Eddie pulled a face when I ordered it. "You mean this is not good, Eddie?" I asked. "It isn't very popular," said Eddie. It was absolutely terrible. Like something from British Rail. "Where's the meringue?" I asked. Eddie pointed to a white mush. "Why don't you try the bread-and-butter pudding with an orange marmalade ice cream?" suggested Eddie. So I did. I couldn't eat much, but it was superb.

The couple next to us got up. "I hope you write something nice," the lady said. "Enjoyed it, did you?" I asked. "It was a special occasion," said the lady and walked out. Most of the diners looked as if they were on special occasions. David Smith, the sous-chef, came from the kitchen. I grabbed three chairs for our photo. A diner stood behind us. "Would you mind not standing there," I said, "because we need to take the photograph." The man pointed out I'd pushed our chairs so close to his he couldn't sit down at his own table. I guess he had every right to stand up. He had every right to be rather annoyed. But he took it well. I moved our chairs. He sat down. And Georgina took the photo.

The next day, I telephoned my friend Giles Shepard, the best-dressed man in the world and chairman of the Ritz. "I think you should make Eddie Adanir your new restaurant manager," I suggested. "How much did he pay you to say that?" said Giles. Thus ended my career as an employment agent in the catering trade.


Herr Winner should have discovered that only the Hotel Sacher (April 7) is allowed to call its cake Sachertorte in one word. Any copies, no matter how good, have to use two words. This conjures up all kinds of patent/copyright possibilities - Yorkshirepudding, Lancashirehotpot, Lincolnshiresausage, Irishstew...
Paul Cleary, Dublin

Susan Harley writes (March 31) that my restaurant, the Box Tree, declined her request for tap water. However, her letter makes no mention of the circumstances. At the time of her visit, our water was coming out of the tap discoloured. Despite assurances from Yorkshire Water, we were not convinced that it was fit to drink and were advised by the environmental health department that, if in doubt, we should boil it. Feeling this was inappropriate, we purchased large containers of spring water for the staff and for making ice cubes. Sadly, our French sommelier's English was not up to explaining the situation, hence his reply that there was no tap water. We certainly do not exert pressure on our customers to buy bottled water.
Mrs HLK Avis, Ilkley, W Yorks

I am already aware of Michael Winner's ability to perform miracles - at least in terms of getting the right level of service - but would like to know how, after flying from Salzburg to Vienna (April 7), he managed to get the bosses of both the Sacher hotels in the same photograph?
Mike Mogano, Solihull

Michael Winner writes (March 31) "I don't do tea bags", and prefers to have some lackey "swish them round" for him. What breathtaking self-importance. I am not too proud to say that I find this gentle method of tea infusion utterly civilised and, indeed, strangely relaxing. In future, I may not "do" Winner's Dinners any more.
Geoff Barton, by e-mail

I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Winner's reference to Peter Crome as a "cheerful and exemplary hotel manager" (April 7). A few years ago, soon after my son and I checked into the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, there was a knock at the door of our suite. A beaming Peter Crome said, breathlessly: "Terribly sorry I could not welcome you in the lobby, but I was showing the King of Malaysia to his rooms." I await the pleasure of Chewton Glen, and dare say I can live with the possibility of the odd king beating me to the red carpet.
David Wishart, Brussels, Belgium