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Great Scott's, a welcome addition to the fold

Published 18 March 2007
News Review
713th article

General manager Matthew Hobbs, left, Michael and Maitre d' Kevin Lansdown (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

I was furious with Justin and Francesco. They're the jolly ambulancemen who drove me to St Alban.

Last Monday the ambulance was booked for 11.30am. Fifteen minutes later there was no sign of it. The ambulance control lady phoned to say they were five miles away in bumper to bumper traffic.

At 11.50 we were told they'd arrived at the clinic. Not to my humble room, they hadn't.

They eventually got to me at noon with a different version of events. They'd driven a cancer patient up from Brighton, but the London Clinic wouldn't admit him because they had no booking.

By the time that was sorted out they had no room ready. So Justin and Francesco sat in the street outside with their patient while I waited upstairs using language Gordon Ramsay would have been proud of.

At Scott's in Mayfair a single paparazzo waited to greet me. At the door was maitre d' Kevin Lansdown. Kevin has a great schoolboy sense of fun. He once greeted me at the Ivy, beaming broadly.

"Don't ask for orange juice tonight," he warned.

"You mean they've switched from fresh to bought in?" I asked.

"They had a meeting, Mitchell (then Ivy boss) objected but he was overruled."

"Go to the kitchen," I said to Kevin, "and tell them Michael Winner is appalled and will be writing about it." Kevin came back grinning from ear to ear.

"I think you've solved the matter," he said.

The next day a couriered letter arrived from their superb chef director, Mark Hix, asking how could I believe the Ivy would switch to bought-in orange juice? Very easily, I thought.

For his new role at Scott's, which has a very gentlemanly clientele, Kevin has grown his hair which is now tied back in a ponytail. I look forward to him getting a job at the Ritz so he can wear beads and open-toed sandals.

I've been waffling about minutiae instead of telling you about Scott's. Okay, it's a triumph. I'm particularly pleased for Richard Caring, who bought the Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey, that his first solo creation is just about perfect.

I've hated all the previous versions that occupied the same space. Richard has a 14-seat bar with a lavish centre piece display of shellfish. Deep red banquettes and chairs surround the bar. At the back there's a more formal 29-seat area with tablecloths.

Not wishing to rise above my station I chose a table in the bar area with a good view of who was coming in and out. I noted two distinguished members of the royal family (as opposed to the dopey, lightweight ones) soon came to the next table.

Scott's got its licence to operate on December 5, 2006, having been held up by a journalist living above who objected to the noise made by diners, cleaners and air-conditioning. So Richard Caring had to drill bore holes down. Eventually arriving in Australia. There he met three aborigines and a group of kangaroos before realising the journey would have been cheaper on a cut-price student air ticket.

Actually he drilled down to the water table. Water then went through pumps and filters, through his air-conditioning and thus back to the water table. Making it the most expensive air-conditioning ever.

The food at Scott's is fantastic. Its chef, Kevin Grattan, was at Le Caprice, where the dishes are pleasant but not challenging. At Scott's I started with "wood pigeon on toast with hedgehog mushroom". Perfectly done slices of pigeon breast, great texture, a triumph. Geraldine and Dinah had sea fish cocktail.

My main course was scampi provencale with fennel pilaf. Outstanding.

For dessert: "dark chocolate and blood orange souffle". "How long will this take?"

I asked. "Twelve minutes" was the answer. And it came only three minutes over schedule.

The soft interior chocolate mingled with the taste of cake-like surround. There was clotted cream and a cherry sauce. I've never had better.

The room is under the expert control of suave Matthew Hobbs. The only thing I found slightly disconcerting was the clientele. Nearly all businessmen in suits. Kevin assured me in the evening it was much less formal. But another of my receptionists, Ruby Snape, went that very evening. She found it "corporate" and full of men in suits.

Personally, I like to see slightly deranged people in casual clothing. At lunch I fulfilled this role, But good as the food is, I'm not available every day.

  • PS: My ambulance firm has changed its name to Star International: "The ride for life". I suppose that's more dramatic than "The ride to lunch".

    Winner's letters

    Your articles give strength to sometimes timid people like myself, to complain when service or food are below acceptable standards. A friend used to say a head waiter could tell at once whether a client is accustomed to smart establishments. The timid are usually treated with contempt.
    Peter J Harper, Buckinghamshire

    I can't believe you're back. You look like a reincarnation of that wonderful, suave actor George Sanders. May your next role win you an Oscar.
    Peter Chainey, Hampshire

    The best salt beef is at Reubens on Baker Street in London. Most people need to take their bank manager. I have to send friends there if I want some, because I was banned for complaining about the price.
    Gary Quitak, London

    It's a marvellous twist to the game: if the critic can't go to the restaurant, the restaurant will come to the critic. We raised a toast to you in lemon tea when we went to Selfridges Brass Rail on your recommendation and had hot salt beef on rye that verged on historic.
    Lee Langley, Surrey

    I wish to claim a five-minute loan of Winner's Wheels. "A la plancha" means grilled on a metal plate. Please throw in one of your Aphrodite-like lasses to push me.
    Anthony Shelmerdine, Manchester