Published 8 February 2009 News Review 812th article
Michael with the staff at Comptoir d'Enhaut in Rougemont, Switzerland (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)
The more I see of Switzerland the more I like it. It's neat and tidy, there's no litter, human or literal, everything seems to work properly. It also has good food (on the whole), beautiful scenery and isn't wildly overbuilt. It's like England in 1950. Our golden era. No wonder some intelligent people go there, not just for the tax, but because it's so pleasant.
Two of these are Michael Williams-Jones who for years ran the UK's biggest film distributor, UIP, and his wife, Eve, who was married to Oscar-winning screenwriter Carl Foreman (High Noon, The Guns of Navarone etc), who now writes up in the clouds.
Another terrific couple are Roger Moore's film-producer son Geoffrey (he's so handsome I hate him) and his beautiful wife, Loulou. They recommended a restaurant in Rougemont, where Michael and Eve live, called Le Comptoir d'Enhaut.
Rougemont, near Gstaad, is the last French-speaking village before you get to the Germanic bit of Switzerland. It's olde worlde - the church dates back to the 11th century - surrounded by high mountains with the panelled restaurant in a mid-19th-century chalet. There are goat's skins on wooden benches.
Apparently the chef fell in love with a Chinese girl for four months. Affected him deeply, so the food is oriental. Odd for a chalet decorated with cowbells, violins and accordions. The owner, Patrick Tschudin, had a bar in Geneva called Lingerie. Partnering him is his girlfriend, Sandra.
I had soupe de poulet tom kha gai. Patrick assured me it was the national soup of Thailand. I immediately poured some of it onto my shirt, which is quite normal. It was good, very spicy. Then Chinese noodles with duck and veggies. To finish I had a semifreddo chataignes, whatever that is.
I find it odd that Switzerland is so clean, yet they let people smoke in restaurants. There was a big table in an open private room next to us full of people speaking in English upper-class voices. It was like an ageing debs' day out. They smoked. So did three people opposite me. For years I deluged everyone with cigar smoke. Now I hate it.
Comptoir d'Enhaut is special. Go there.
Another marvellous place near Gstaad is the Sonnenhof. Best rosti potatoes in the world. Incredible view of valleys and mountains. Everyone was eating a purple flower that came as plate decoration. I didn't. But what I had was excellent.
It's the sort of place where you say, "Isn't that Bernie Ecclestone? Isn't that the other billionaire?" Doesn't put me off. I don't mind eating with rich people.
Chicest of all is the Eagle Club. You go up in a ski lift, feet dangling, great snow-covered pine trees, Gstaad disappearing in the distance below. I had an amazing steak tartar. On the terrace the mountain air is a joy after the fumes of London. Made worse now by additional traffic passing my house on the way to the ghastly Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush.
My first newspaper column was published in September 1950. I started writing for The Sunday Times in 1970. I'm rather proud that in 59 years no one has ever had to publish a correction or an apology for anything I've written. So when I see sloppy, inept journalism, I cringe. Never more so than when it's about me.
A very boring man called Frederick Forsyth recently wrote in the Daily Express that the only reason I was able buy my "mansion" and live a luxury lifestyle was because I inherited a "huge fortune" from my mother. Forsyth clearly implied I was incapable of earning my own living.
One of the most reported facts ever is that my mother, an addicted gambler, nicked paintings, antiques and a south of France penthouse apartment left to me and sold them for some £8m to pay her gaming debts at the Cannes casino in the 1970s. Today what she sold would be worth a minimum of £50m.
Mumsy didn't leave me a fortune. She denuded me of a fortune. So what? She was a wonderful lady, God bless her.
I bought my house out of income from my movies, at an arm's length price fixed by the Kensington and Chelsea council district surveyor, 14 years before Mumsy died. She left me hardly anything.
The Express behaved impeccably. They published a correction and an apology and made a donation to my charity, the Police Memorial Trust. Frederick Forsyth continued to act like a twit. He declined to have the apology printed with his column, where he'd offered his readers his invented and unchecked story.
Geraldine, who, unlike me, is extremely charming and tolerant, met Forsyth at a party last year. He lectured her pompously on Zimbabwe where she'd lived for 10 years and to which she frequently returns.
Then he pontificated on the French singer Jacques Brel, whom Geraldine knew well and worked with in Paris. She was enraged at how inaccurate and tedious he was. Forsyth obviously has a problem separating fact from fiction. He should go back to journalism school.
You wrote that "nice girl" Angela Hartnett was right to quit the Connaught rather than fry eggs for breakfast room service. Twenty-five years ago I worked at Bafta. There was a special dinner with a set menu. VIP's as well as you were Sir David Lean and Princess Anne. You passed on the chicken supreme and asked me for a couple of eggs on toast. Being a nice girl, I obliged.
Bernadette Rodgers, London
I'm relieved that Murano supplied Michael with "lots of bibs and bobs". While I know what he did with the bibs, why did he need lots of them? Was it to catch those expensive truffles? I'm still wondering to which part of his anatomy the bobs were attached.
Richard Broke, London
On December 27 I went to Sandy Lane's L'Acajou restaurant. It was very "American", no sparkle. Never mind its chef. Speak out against Barbados being bulldozed to make way for developments that are only for the very rich.
Keith Bemrose, East Yorkshire
At Almond Beach near Sandy Lane, same sand, same sea, our bill for 15 people was less than half of yours for two. We had £48,000 left over!
Roger Goodwin, La Charente, France
I think the food at Sandy Lane under Grant MacPherson is the best on the island.
Tony Troulan, Barbados
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