Published 25 October 2009 News Review 849th article
Geraldine and Michael by the Britannia Inn in Aberdovey, Wales (no credit)
It was very hot for late September. We (that's me an' 'er) drove through picturesque Wales, ending up, as recommended by the curtain queen Joan Reen (I told you about her last week), in Aberdyfi (Welsh) or Aberdovey (British), on a pretty estuary somewhere. You want to know precisely, get a road map. It was 1pm. My lunchtime. Promptly. No delays.
The most interesting place seemed to be the Britannia Inn, overlooking the harbour. Just the place to sit in the sun. The only exterior was a small balcony.
"It's full," observed Geraldine.
"Let's go and see," I suggested.
"Why?" asked Geraldine. "There are no seats."
"Maybe," I said.
We walked upstairs and on to the balcony. It was indeed full. I stared at a couple who seemed to be near the end of their meal.
"You going?" I asked helpfully.
"We're leaving soon," they said.
"Let's have a drink at the bar," suggested Geraldine.
"We'll get the table if I stay and stare at the people occupying it," I recommended.
I did. They left early. It's marvellous how accommodating people are when I become a pain.
Only problem was, Geraldine, being blonde, hates sitting in the sun. Our table had no umbrella; the next one did.
"Would you mind swapping?" I asked a man who turned out to be a Welshman called Andy Davies. He swapped. "The Welsh are very cheerful," I commented to Andy. "Not like in London, where they're all bloody surly."
"They have their moments," said Andy.
Up came Christine Coleman. "You the owner?" I asked.
"No, sir," she replied. "Would you like to be?" I said. "I love my boss - he's brilliant," responded Christine. Good for her.
Time to stop the small talk and order. I had no great hopes for the food but it was a lovely spot. Geraldine shaded. Me basking in the hot sun. Funnily enough, it was boiling hot in Perthshire, Scotland, the week before last too. That's another story, which I may one day relate.
Back in Wales (wake up, those who aren't following carefully) Christine assured me everything was fresh. So I ordered "Freshly dressed Aberdyfi crab, large salad, new potatoes and lemon mayonnaise." Geraldine asked for tiger langoustines.
I chatted with Andy, who was (and probably still is) a bricklayer. "Lovely girl you've got there, Andy, "I said. "Sweet smile, nice manner and attitude."
"You haven't seen her temper," remarked Andy. She did have red hair. We know about them.
My crab salad was enormous. Geraldine tried it and pronounced it the best crab since one she'd eaten in Brittany, adding, "Absolutely fantastic." She was right. It was remarkable. For dessert I chose chocolate fudge cake. Swans drifted by; seagulls did whatever they do. It was idyllic. So was the cake.
On the way out I met Christine's favourite owner, Dieter Botchett, a strapping, blond young German, who was cheffing away in the kitchen. I didn't ask what a German was doing running a pub in Wales. Had I done so I'd have breached the Political Correctness Act 2007, ratified with knobs on by the European parliament in March 2009. I just shut up, paid and went off a happy customer.
I get hundreds of requests from readers asking: "You recommended a place in Venice. Can't remember it. Could you . . . ?" I throw the letters away. No offence intended, but I haven't the time or desire to be a one-to-one restaurant advisory service. Now your chance has come. Winner's Dinners the book is in shops, flower stalls, burger bars, brothels and other dodgy outlets. It lists more than 600 restaurants and hotels, indexed, county by county, country by country. Phone numbers for all. The complete guide for the life you wish to live. It's enlivened with cartoons by my favourite cartoonist. Me.
Price is £16.99. If you write, I'll send a sticky label signed, inscribed and cartooned to whoever you name. You can get it from The Sunday Times BooksFirst bookshop on 0845 271 2135 for £13.59, including postage. Think of all the stamps it'll save you writing to me and not getting an answer.
"No post," you say.
Of course there will be. Disputes don't last for ever. Unless I'm personally involved.
I've travelled recently on my ITV1 series Michael Winner's Dining Stars to places as diverse as Essex, Solihull and Blairgowrie. I get up 6am, make up 8am, finish shooting around 11pm. The director (like him so far) is Nic Guttridge. TV being a bit cash-deficient, he often quadruples as cameraman, lighting man and sound recordist. He's a disaster with sound equipment.
When I told him one of my assistants was leaving, he e-mailed: "I will miss Jessica."
I replied: "Like everyone else, Jessica is replaceable."
Nic e-mailed back: "Your sentimentality is the thing I most love about you."
Impertinent or funny? Both.
Good grief! In your photo at Ynyshir Hall you look marginally attractive. Or do I need to visit my optician? Patrick Tracey, Carlisle You're such a scruff lolling against a lady outside Ynyshir Hall. You should flog off a few of your motors and employ a Jeeves to teach you a few airs and graces befitting a man of your oblivious status.
Martyn Nicholls, Palio, Greece
At Ynyshir Hall the first thing we did, like Geraldine, was to hook up the heavy curtains so we could see the fantastic view. I'm glad you pointed this out to Joan. I hope she takes your advice and changes them.
Chrissie Parrott, Exeter
Wonderful news about the Winner talking doll. May I suggest it's made of wood rather than plastic, so it may accurately reflect your personality.
Marcus Chew, Dublin
The New York edition has the crossword on the same page as your column. The 11 Down clue is: "Old gatecrasher." Tried to put in "Michael Winner" but it's one letter too many.
Jim Carlin, Manhattan, USA
Some years ago my ex-wife asked the waiter in a posh Spanish restaurant if the snails on the menu were French or Spanish. He paused for a moment and said, "Would madam like to speak to them or eat them?"
Peter Greeson, Berkshire
Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org