Monday, 31 October 2011

Anything goes


“Modern European cuisine” is a description that restaurants have taken to using when basically they just want to serve whatever they want. It joins “gastropub” on my list of the restaurant industry’s “imaginative” ways of talking utter nonsense.


A conversation with a former restaurateur on Saturday evening reminded me of the pointlessness of this particular phrase when he told me that a long established Italian restaurant in Chelsea had decided to ditch their traditional, yet popular, menu in favour of a “modern European” offering. Basically, this has meant that customers arriving expecting a bowl of spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino are now confronted instead with burgers, fat chips and turkey. Frankly, this change seems illogical in the extreme and I can’t imagine it will have impressed many of their customers.

One definition suggests the concept is “really more about themes and associations than with hard and fast rules.” Another adds: “Modern European cuisine allows restaurants to vary their menu as they see fit.” In fact, therefore, it really should just be defined as: “Anything goes.”


If you run a restaurant and can’t work out what you want to cook, why bother at all?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The chair of Blair


Last Monday I spotted Cherie Blair eyeing up furniture at a preview of the auction of several smart Central London homes. As Mrs Blair sat, looking rather forlorn, in a leather armchair, I was left contemplating the progress of her and her family to millionairedom.

A pair of circa 1930-1950 French leather buttoned oak armchairs that Mrs Blair was spotted sat in at the Christie's South Kensington £1.7million London Living auction (Lot 1416, guide £3,000-£5,000, achieved £7,500)

Since leaving office, the Blair family have seen their personal wealth soar into the mega league. Just like the Clintons in America before them, the Blairs have moved into a world of socialising with billionaires, buying antiques in Sotheby’s and Christie’s and travelling by private jet and helicopter. With a personal wealth conservatively estimated at £60 million and nine properties around the world, by post-Prime Ministerial career standards this represents a phenomenal success especially when compared to Blair’s predecessors. Sir John Major and Lady Thatcher, in financial terms, are actually both relative paupers.

The Blair family country residence: South Pavilion, Wooton Underwood, Buckinghamshire

The purchase of Sir John Gielgud’s Grade I listed former home, the South Pavilion at Wooton Underwood, Buckinghamshire for circa £4 million in 2008 is most definitely the most significant of the couple’s status symbols. Having seen her at several auction houses, it does seem that furnishing this and a large townhouse in Connaught Square, W2 is what now fills much of Mrs Blair’s time whilst her husband jets around the world making money and trying to create a more peaceful world.

Cherie Blair

It is also said that Mrs Blair is a “lonely eBay addict” who likes to spend time at the Champneys heath spa whilst worrying about what her husband is up to on his travels. Commentators, however, generally neglect to mention that Mrs Blair still works as a QC and also runs her own faith foundation. It is still de rigueur to mock Mrs Blair for her past mistakes but one could equally suggest that the product placing here there and everywhere by Samantha Cameron deserves just the same kind of criticism – which I note, simply does not occur.

Tony Blair

Whatever many think of Blair and his legacy, his post-office success has certainly been remarkable. It’ll be interesting to compare this to David Cameron’s post-office progress when that day arrives.

For more information on Tony Blair go to: http://www.tonyblairoffice.org

For more information on Cherie Blair go to: http://www.cherieblair.org

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Made-off with Millions


As Ruth Madoff’s first account of the unravelling of her husband’s Ponzi scheme is due to be broadcast this Sunday on the CBS show 60 Minutes, it has been revealed that Madoff family members could retain $82,368,096 of funds from the con because of the imposition of a two year cap limiting the claw back period against New York Met owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.

Ruth Madoff

Irving Picard, the appointed trustee central to the recovery of the assets seized from the investment scandal, had sought a claw back period of six years against Wilpon and Katz that would have netted $1 billion whereas the reduced cap reduces this figure to just $386 million. Picard, who has filed more than 1,000 suits seeking money for Madoff investors, has estimated allowed claims on the estate at more than $17 billion but the new two year cap, he argues, will reduce that amount by as much as $6 billion.

Irving Picard

Meanwhile, it has come to light that Madoff is enjoying prison life. In a letter to his daughter-in-law, Stephanie Madoff Mack, published in her book The End of Normal, he states:

“They call me Uncle Bernie or Mr. Madoff… I’m quite the celebrity…  I can’t walk anywhere without someone shouting their greetings or encouragement, to keep my spirit up. It’s really quite sweet, how concerned everyone is about my well-being, including the staff… It’s much safer here than walking the streets of New York.”

Stephanie Madoff Mack on ABC News Good Morning America

One would have thought that this family would have the sense to keep quiet. Whilst Madoff-Mack may have lost her husband, her book contains all sorts of tawdry details that should have been kept private. Ruth and Andrew Madoff hitting the interview circuit, equally, can only be described as insensitive in the extreme.

Bernard Madoff

Bernard Madoff himself has also been interviewed by Barbara Walters this week at the Butner Federal Correction Complex. Reports state that he tells her that: “He’s happier now than he has been in years.”

Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Watch a CBS 60 Minutes clip of Ruth Madoff describing the moment her husband confessed: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7386217n

Watch a CBS 60 Minutes clip about how Bernard and Ruth Madoff attempted suicide: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7386080n&tag=cbsnewsSidebarArea.0

Watch an ABC News Good Morning America interview with Stephanie Madoff-Mack at: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/stephanie-madoff-mack-tells-story-14801675

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Rape and anonymity


Benjamin Boateng, the son of Britain’s first black Cabinet Minister, is someone I’ve never met but I do recall receiving several rather rude messages from him after I responded to a mutual friend’s Facebook post about John Prescott earlier this year. Two days ago, I now learn, he was found guilty of “skillfully” raping a 22 year old.

 Smiling for a mugshot: Benjamin Boateng

Boateng has previous form having been cautioned for harassment in 2010. In 2006 he also found himself accused of rape in Cape Town by a journalist named Tamara Arden but due to his father being the British High Commissioner to South Africa, he was able to claim diplomatic immunity and the charges were dropped. Arden continues to state that the attack was genuine.

Both Boateng cases involved girls who drank copious amounts of booze with him in shady nightclubs before he made his move. In both instances this former actor claimed that what occurred had been consensual and that he had done nothing wrong. This week a majority verdict of 10-2 certainly thought otherwise.

The case brings to mind five other individuals I have known or encountered who have been accused of rape. Though each is unique, each also brought me to think of the rights and wrongs of the “victim” being able to remain anonymous whilst the defendant is publicly named and shamed prior to trial.

The first, who shall remain nameless at his own request, was a sculptor who was commissioned by a divorced woman. During his time working with the lady, she made clear advances which he rejected. Within days he found himself arrested for a rape he had not committed and subsequently he was tried, found guilty and wrongly imprisoned. In due course he appealed and the charges were thrown out but not until it was proven that the woman was an utter fantasist who had made similar false allegations before. Nonetheless, forever more this individual will have to live with his ordeal and those who say: “there’s no smoke without fire.”

 Fantasist jailbird: Nadine Milroy-Sloan

The second is the case of my friends Neil and Christine Hamilton, who were also subjected to being charged with the rape of a woman and one even more bizarrely that they had never met. In 2001, Nadine Milroy-Sloan, a trainee lecturer, decided to concoct a story that the former MP and his wife had, along with two others, raped her and tried to recruit her as a prostitute. With the help of Max Clifford, she sold her story which, though proved utterly false, caused the Hamiltons many a sleepless night and much humiliation. During the investigation, this gold-digging fantasist was able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity whilst the Hamiltons were forced to endure a barrage of media attention. Subsequently Milroy-Sloan was rightly jailed for three years and exposed for what she is.

 Innocent victims: Neil and Christine Hamilton

The third involves the Blackpool football club owner Owen Oyston. Oyston was jailed for six years for the rape of a girl who originally claimed the crime took place in autumn 1991. During the case she changed the date to the middle of 1992 and then September 1992. How this witness was credible always escaped me and though both appeals failed, Oyston continues to protest his innocence to this day.

 Still protesting his innocence: Owen Oyston

The fourth concerns the son of the multi-millionaire property developer Desmond Bloom, Baron, who was jailed for the rape of a 15 year old in 2003. Bloom, who was cleared of another allegation from a 14 year old, was incarcerated for one year even though he denied knowing how old she was and had ceased the relationship on having found out. Though Bloom was even described by his own barrister as someone the jury plainly would not like should not have necessarily resulted in a conviction especially after the girl had sent him taunting emails that stated: "If Jewish people are like you Hitler should be made a saint" just prior to the trial. Subsequently, Bloom's sentence was reduced as a judge described it as "excessive."

Baron Bloom

Each of the cases I describe centre around situations where anonymous individuals were able to make accusations against prominent personalities. In several of the cases the accusations were indeed true and the perpetrators got what they deserved but where they have been fake, the results for the falsely accused have been devastatingly awful.

Keith Soothill, professor of social research at Lancaster University, is amongst a small minority who have studied women who invent rape allegations. In a 2004 piece from The Guardian he states: "Women tend to make false allegations to get themselves out of trouble rather than to get men into trouble. They lie when they feel constrained, when they're in a tight spot." This is all very well but where individuals have been falsely imprisoned and their reputations destroyed, it certainly doesn’t excuse the behaviour of the fake victims.

Even David Cameron has backed the case of bringing forward “limited anonymity” for defendants in rape cases. Frankly, it is high time that this was put into practice as the presumption of guilty until proven innocent has plainly and appallingly become the norm in such cases.


Read about the account by Tamara Arden of the 2006 allegations against Boateng at: http://www.senseonline.co.za/index.php/Archives/Rape-and-Raped-again-A-Personal-Story-of-Injustice.html

The cars we drive say a lot about us


Featuring everything from a 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio cabriolet to a 1962 Rolls-Royce Phantom V Sedanca De Ville that was supposedly used by Victor Barclay of Jack Barclay Ltd, yesterday’s RM Auctions annual sale in London’s Battersea Park was definitely somewhat quieter than in previous years.

My first visit to this auction came in 2007 when Bernie Ecclestone sold his spectacular collection. Amongst the lots on offer then was a Lancia Astura Lungo complete with Italian fascist symbols and Nazi swastika flag which Benito Mussolini gave to Adolf Hitler during the visit of the Nazi dictator to Italy in 1938, and since I have been continually impressed by the array of interesting vehicles RM Auctions manage to bring to the market.

Yesterday’s sale did, however, lack the buzz of previous years and perhaps was indicative that the premium car market is suffering as a result of these times of economic hardship. Whilst about 70% of the vehicles did sell, three of the four top lots failed to meet their reserves and were not sold and the overall result was a decline on 2010’s 87% success rate.

1990 Alfa Romeo Zagato SZ coupé. Photo Credit: Tom Wood ©2011. Courtesy of RM Auctions.

The highest price achieved was £2.24 million for a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB “Tour de France” Berlinetta against an upper estimate of £2.4 million whilst buyers passed on a 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder (estimated at £1.5 million to £1.8 million) and 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT (estimated at £780,000 to £880,000). At the lower end of the scale, examples included a 1990 Alfa Romeo Zagato SZ coupé that reached just £15,000 against an estimate of £30,000 to £40,000.

 
1973 Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Limousine. Photo Credit: Tim Scott ©2011. Courtesy of RM Auctions.

I especially enjoyed seeing a fully restored 1973 Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Limousine (estimated at £75,000 to £100,000) that was in mint condition alongside a barn find, complete with dust, from 1969 that required full restoration (estimated at £20,000 to £30,000, achieved £22,000). The former had been on display at Mercedes-Benz World, Weybridge, Surrey for the last four years and comes complete with a drop down 14-inch screen and a walnut drinks cabinet.

2001 Iveco Domino HDH Orlandi Scuderia Ferrari F1 driver’s coach. Photo Credit: Tom Wood ©2011. Courtesy of RM Auctions.

One of the most unusual lots was a 2001 Iveco Domino HDH Orlandi Scuderia Ferrari F1 driver’s coach (estimated at £200,000 to £300,000) that had been used by the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team during the Schumacher and Barrichello years. The vehicle has since been converted into a most luxurious motor home. The lot came accompanied by conditions that stated “… that the purchaser will be required to sign an agreement promising to protect Ferrari’s trademark and to not use this vehicle for commercial purposes.”

1956 Bentley S1 Continental Fastback coupé. Photo Credit: Dan Savinelli ©2011. Courtesy of RM Auctions.

One of my favourite lots was a 1956 Bentley S1 Continental Fastback coupé (estimated at £220,000 to £280,000) that numbered the 3rd Earl of Inchcape and the Steven Wolf Collection in Florida as previous owners. RM Auction’s description of the vehicle as “usable art” is most definitely fitting and if I had the resources this car would definitely have topped my shopping list.

For more information on RM Auctions go to: http://www.rmauctions.com/

To view the auction catalogue go to: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/0cff2963

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Private Spy


Marking the 50th anniversary of Private Eye is a brilliant little exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington.

 Some of Private Eye's best covers

Featuring fifty of the title’s best covers, the exhibition includes works by Willie Rushton, Ralph Steadman, Nick Newman, Barry Fantoni and Gerald Scarfe as well as memorabilia from the magazine’s Soho offices.

The Bouncing Czech floats

Most interesting to me, of course, was the documentation concerning the libel case between the magazine and Robert Maxwell. The life size floating Cap’n Bob equally was especially amusing.

 "The Route Monster" masacres all that gets in her way

Other notable images feature the royal family, “The Route Monster” bus and  Rupert Murdoch. The resulting overall feel conveys the combination of humour and investigative journalism excellently.

Private Eye at the V&A is on display until 8th January 2012 and is well worth a visit.


Follow the Victoria & Albert Museum on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/V_and_A

Get the latest from Private Eye at: http://www.private-eye.co.uk

Follow Private Eye on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/privateeyenews

Sunday, 23 October 2011

He was a wise man who invented beer


I first came across Viru, an Estonian pilsner beer, back in 2008 at The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel. I was immediately impressed by the octagonal pyramidal shape of the bottle but it was most definitely the crisp, hoppy taste that made me come to start calling for it at the bars I regularly visit.

Viru's impressive bottle

Winner of a silver medal in the 2011 International Beer Challenge, Viru is brewed with Lithuanian malted barley, aromatic Saaz hops and artesian spring water. At 5% ABV, this pale lager is an easy to drink premium beer and as a result can be found in smart bars such as the St. James’s Hotel & Club and The Lanesborough.

Originally the brand took the name of “Virumaa” but this was changed prior to launch in the UK in 2006. The word “Viru” itself is a traditional name for an area of land on the Baltic coast that was inhabited by Vironians, a Finnic tribe that later formed the Estonian nation.

If you like beer, you should definitely add Viru to your “must try” list.

For more information on Viru see: http://www.virubeer.com

Buy Viru from TheDrinkShop.com for £1.35 for a 300ml bottle at: http://www.thedrinkshop.com/products/nlpdetail.php?prodid=6150

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Where there’s tea, there’s hope


I was recently sent a selection of teas by the PR for Numi Organic Tea and have now had ample opportunity to sample a wide selection of them with friends.

Numi is a company based in Oakland, California that was established by brother and sister duo Ahmed and Reem Ramin in 1999 with the aim of bringing quality artisan organic and Fairtrade teas to the masses. Made with blends of real fruits and organic leaves, these are premium teas that have now launched in the UK through Ocado.com and Whole Foods. Prices are reasonable at around £3 for 18 sachets and as such Numi’s teas represent a good opportunity for those looking to try something different to move up from the likes of Twinings and Whittard.

 Numi's Aged Earl Grey Italian Bergamot Black Tea

An instant hit for me was Numi’s Aged Earl Grey Italian Bergamot Black Tea which combines Assam black tea with real bergamot oranges. The resulting taste is fruity but not overpowering and as a result the tea is as enjoyable with milk as it is by itself.

For an afternoon tea, I found Numi’s Organic Velvet Garden White Rose Tea most enjoyable. This is a tea that combines notes of roses with smooth white tea and one that is delicate and fragrant in taste.

 Numi's Chocolate Pureh Tea

Numi also produce a range of Pureh teas. These are teas that are packed with antioxidants and aimed at those looking to detox. Of the four varieties, an instant hit with chocolate loving friends was the Chocolate Pureh. This blend of an earthy black tea, whole vanilla beans, sweet orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon and organic cocoa nibs has a spicy finish and a velvety, chocolate aroma.

My only real criticism of Numi is their packaging. Numi’s branding has plainly been styled for the American market but to their credit, though I dislike the look, the boxes and sachets do clearly describe how to make “the perfect cup” in a concise, user friendly manner.

C.S. Lewis once said: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I’d definitely say, for it’s price point, Numi’s Earl Grey, for me, would fit into that quote just perfectly.

For more information on Numi Teas see: http://www.numitea.com

Follow Numi Teas on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/numitea

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Da Steeps (S)Peaks


Today the counter on my blog, Da Steeps Speaks, hit 75,000 unique views but never did I imagine the paths my foray into the world of blogging would take me down when I wrote my first piece back in June.

 Da Steeps Speaks at 75,000 unique views

The idea of writing up my experiences began back on May 11th this year when I found myself embroiled in the Daily Telegraph’s story about a certain former ambassador’s wife, the “charity” she ran and the rather extraordinary salary she happened to receive for such. Many friends knew of my displeasure in the way exactly a year earlier, I myself had discovered the manner in which the PACT charity operated and as a result I had ceased to be involved. In the year that followed, however, I had not spoken with any member of the press about this but when the brilliant writer Henry Deedes (http://deedesblog.dailymail.co.uk) alerted me to the story I decided to contact the journalist concerned, Richard Eden (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mandrake), to give him my take on the matter. The saga of what followed is now commonly known but put simply the reaction of the tittle-tattling former ambassador, his “Chanel-clad” wife and their cronies sparked a series of correspondence, public showdowns (with one, involving a former manager of Elistano restaurant, inappropriately telling my pal Anthony Brown he was “riff-raff”) as well as nonsense about “death threats” and an “internet hate campaign.” The whole thing, frankly, turned into a comedy.

Having grown bored of these ludicrous people (who completely failed to understand that when you are in a hole, it is best to stop digging), I decided I’d move the caravan along and start a blog. I did not begin with anything on this scandal but in fact with pieces on the brilliant “photographer to the stars” John Stoddart (http://www.johnstoddart.co.uk) and a new talent named Aliona Adrianova (http://www.adrianova.co.uk). I was pleased subsequently when the Stoddart piece was later published by Epicurean Life magazine.

What followed was also a dilemma about what to write next: I could have gone down the route of focusing on the arts but the field in which I have a little knowledge, I’d say, is food and drink. I’m also fascinated by current affairs and the advice of the blogger Michael Ezra (http://www.twitter.com/michaelezra) over a dinner at The Admiral Codrington was most helpful in making me decide to cover a variety of subjects.

The subsequent journey that I embarked on has brought with it great pleasure put me into contact with an array of characters. The pieces I did on the PACT scandal itself aroused interest from the likes of Janet Street-Porter, who was inspired to write a piece on the giving sector being an utter mess (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/janet-street-porter/editoratlarge-the-giving-sector-is-a-mess-ndash-and-thats-being-charitable-2290324.html), and I have had much correspondence with those who are skeptical about the whole Madeline McCann story such as “Nobby-Lobby” (http://www.twitter.com/veniviedivici) and “Elementary Force” (http://www.twitter.com/elementaryforce).

The next subject I became especially involved with was that of the News of the World telephone hacking scandal. My first piece on this, for reasons unknown, has achieved over 50,000 unique views - making it my most followed - and the dialogue I’ve had with Rupert Murdoch himself and the experience of meeting his inefficacious door man were quite something else.

My writings on both Lord Lucan and Heather Mills have brought in comments and emails galore. To think that so many think that the former is alive and prospering and that the latter is a “gem” have surprised me. Equally odd was the reaction to my piece on “the rat theory” that I learnt of whilst sailing with Mount Gay Rum and Andreas Widegren on the Isle of Wight during the August riots. The daily comments on these and others I receive frankly range from the brilliant to the frankly absurd.

Writing about the convicted crooks Bernie Madoff and Conrad Black brought the opportunity to study two fascinatingly bizarre individuals in greater depth. That a certain person involved in the disposal of the assets of the former put the phone down on me was definitely amusing and I very much hope to write much more about both.

On the food and drink front, reviewing Santini (http://www.santini-restaurant.com) and Joe’s (http://www.joseph.co.uk/joes-cafe/locations) with the PR supremo Sarah Canet and the charming Iris Bond were both great pleasures and the opportunity to introduce my readers to great restaurants like Galoupet (http://www.galoupet.co.uk) and The Collection (http://www.the-collection.co.uk) have been especially pleasurable. Many more reviews will follow.

The main thing I’ve gained in this process, though, has been the enjoyment of interacting with brilliant individuals from so many fields. Reviewing gins with Alexandra Abrahams (http://www.twitter.com/alexbloomgin), Barnaby Rodgers (http://www.twitter.com/barnabyrodgers) and Britain’s only female master distiller Joanne Moore was great and the chance to explore the progress of exciting brands like Nuttall Home (http://www.nuttallhome.com), Purity Vodka (http://www.purityvodka.com) and JING Tea (http://www.jingtea.com) have also been an education. I look forward to exploring many more.

Watch out – this is only just the beginning for Da Steeps Speaks.

Email suggestions, comments and article ideas to matthew@matthewsteeples.co.uk

Follow Da Steeps Tweets on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dasteepstweets

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Hurricane Heather


Has Heather Mills, the daughter of a convicted fraudster, spent her entire £24.3 million divorce settlement? We all knew that this lady with an interesting past was a spendaholic but the fact that she’s put her 8 bedroomed country home up for rent for £7,995 per month could be an indication that the former wife of Sir Paul McCartney is suffering like the rest of us during this economic slump.

Heather's crib

Mills’ arts and crafts residence in Brightling Road, Robertsbridge, Sussex dates to 1914 and stands in 15 acres of wooded grounds. Bought with part of her divorce settlement, the house includes 6 reception rooms and 6 bathrooms and a childrens’ play area that the former glamour model plainly created for her daughter Beatrice.  The kitchen is designed for the cooking of the vomit inducing “plant based raw diet” meals favoured by Newcastle born Mills and features a Rangemaster oven, Maytag fridge freezer and a wine cooler. A cloakroom is appropriately described as featuring a “Crapper’s WC” and the master suite includes an “en-suite” shower room with a “rain sky waterfall shower” large enough for the ego of a woman best known for hurling a jug of water over Fiona, now Baroness Shackleton.

 A shower for a woman with an ego the size of Sussex

Mills’ lack of business acumen since her divorce has been clearly illustrated several times over. First there was the disaster of the Vbites café she opened in Hove Lagoon in 2009. Diners were not impressed and described the food as “of such poor quality” and “tasting like worms.” Equally the investment of this proven compulsive liar, who was previously engaged to my neighbour Raffaele Mincione, in Redwood Foods hasn’t exactly paid off either.

  A kitchen capable of the preparation of the most ghastly meals

Brand Heather has never rung true in my mind and yet again her attempt to rent out her home is only indication of another hurricane she must be fronting.

If you do fancy living like Heather Mills, contact Savills of Tunbridge Wells on +44 (0) 1892 314 453. Website: http://www.savills.com

If you can stomach reading her bile, go to Heather Mills’ official site at http://www.heathermills.org

For more on Vbites see http://www.vbites.com

If you really wish to follow Heather Mills you can find her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/heatherofficial

Monday, 10 October 2011

Prime Pelham


Thomas Pelham, the 1st Baron Pelham is best remembered as being the father of nine children, two of whom became British Prime Ministers and between them served eighteen years in total in that role.

 The drawing room of The Pelham Hotel

The Pelham Hotel occupies a prime position in Cromwell Place in the heart of South Kensington and features 51 individually designed bedrooms, meeting rooms, a bar and bistro. Styled by Kit Kemp, the hotel is opulent yet welcoming and a wood-paneled drawing room with honesty bar and cosy library complete the public areas. The finish is of the highest standard, the welcoming staff give the place the feel of a chic members’ club and it is with good reason that the Daily Telegraph calls it one of London’s best privately owned hotels.

Bistro Fifteen, the hotel’s restaurant, is bright and airy and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The zinc topped bar and aquamarine seating is contemporary yet comfortable and the setting is perfect for a light lunch after a visit to The Victoria & Albert Museum. This is a bistro that is run with panache by a friendly team who are passionate about food and drink.

 The bar and restaurant

The à la carte menu is modern British in style and features dishes that are both light and hearty. Portions are generous, yet not overwhelming and choices include pan seared lemon sole with sautéed chanterelles, lemon and parsley butter (£21), duck breast with gnocchi, sweet carrots and spinach (£19.50) and slow cooked shoulder of lamb with roast red onions and tomato jams (£17). Touches such as homemade garlic butter and a selection of cheeses from La Cave a Fromage (which just happens to be across the road) illustrate how much thought has gone into the offering at Bistro Fifteen.

The set lunch, priced at just £18 for three courses, is extremely good value and with four starters and four mains has enough choice to please all. The baby spinach, blue cheese and squash salad was excellent and the smoked sea trout ravioli with a pumpkin velouté was unusual and delicious. We followed with a generous portion of guinea fowl wrapped in pancetta and roasted root vegetables and a sea food risotto that was most enjoyable.

White wines start at a most reasonable £18 for the Heritage de Baron Louis and rises through a Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio at £30 a bottle up to £128 for a Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2001 Domaine Jean Rijckaert Burgundy. The house champagne is £50 a bottle and on the red front, the offering includes a Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 at £67.50 and the Western Australian Duckbill Shiraz at £27 a bottle.

 The Pelham's library

The bar itself offers an excellent range of cocktails, many made with the delectably floral Bloom Gin, as well as tapas sharing plates, sandwiches and antipasti whilst for those looking to enjoy an afternoon tea, The Pelham’s library and drawing rooms are equally perfect as a setting.

Next time you happen to be in South Kensington, make a beeline for The Pelham. You won’t be disappointed.

The Pelham Hotel, 15 Cromwell Place, London, SW7 2LA. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7589 8288. Website: http://www.pelhamhotel.co.uk

Follow The Pelham Hotel on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ThePelhamHotel

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Maxed Out


Today’s News of the World Online repeats yet another story that has done the rounds too many times already. Previously, I reported the same title’s ludicrous allegations that Arnold Schwarzenegger murdered Lord Lucan and their new claim this morning that Robert Maxwell was killed by Mossad does seem equally ridiculous.

The Bouncing Czech, Robert Maxwell (1923-1991)

When the fraudster Maxwell fell off his gin palace, the Lady Ghislaine, in 1991 the ensuing revelations revealed him as a man who had plundered the Mirror Group to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. On that fateful night, who knows what really occurred, but whatever really caused this giant bully to fall overboard and float away was certainly his easy way out.

The Lady Ghislaine

I’ve read allegations that “Cap’n Bob” had a body double and fled for a new life (most probably with Shergar and Lord Lucan himself) and I’ve heard allegations that he killed himself. I’ve also seen the coroner’s findings that “The Bouncing Czech” simply had a heart attack and fell overboard. The latter seems most likely. Whatever really happened, this was simply a man who knew his “game” was up. His empire was collapsing. His cohorts were deserting him and he knew he was heading for jail.

 Cap'n Bob aboard the Lady Ghislaine: "Are we rich yet?"

Today the News of the World Online attempts to suggest that Mossad agents came upon Maxwell and injected him with “a lethal nerve agent developed by a biological research institute in Tel Aviv” before lowering him into the sea. Where is their proof?

As Boris Johnson would say, this most definitely seems like yet another “Pyramid of Piffle.” It is time these silly stories were laid to rest.

Read my original piece in response to the Lord Lucan/Schwarzeneger allegations at http://dasteepsspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/08/theyre-all-dead-and-they-wont-be-back.html

Read the News of the World Online’s allegations about the death of Robert Maxwell at http://www.newsoftheworldonline.eu/104-notw-online-investigations/861-target-robert-maxwell-death-or-murder

Fire up the Quattro


I have previously written of the Firezza pizza delivery service at http://dasteepsspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/08/do-you-have-time-to-listen-to-me-whine.html


Last night, true to the quality operation that they are, this company again showed itself to be super efficient and friendly and I thought I’d briefly detail how impressed I was.

At around 9pm, probably their busiest time, on a damp autumnal evening, I went to the Firezza website as my friend fancied a pizza. There was an offer relating to placing an order from a mobile phone that would result in a 25% discount. After being unable to use this (probably due to my own inept understanding of all things telephonic), I called the Chelsea branch instead and explained that I couldn’t get this to work.

“No problem, sir,” came the response. “We know you’re a regular customer and we understand that there is a problem when it comes to typing in your particular postcode” (my home is within their delivery area, but for some reason my postcode falls outside it) “… and of course, we’ll honour the discount.”

 DCI Gene Hunt and his Quattro

Less than 30 minutes later, a bottle of perfectly good and more importantly perfectly chilled Pinot Grigio arrived with a 4 Stagioni (Italian classic-four season pizza with separate sections of artichokes, prosciuutto cotto ham, pepperoni and fresh mushrooms on a tomato and mozzarella base) with a bill for just £17.47. Even if it had bad been full price, it would have just been £5.83 more. DCI Gene Hunt couldn’t have done any better himself.

Next time you’re feeling peckish and don’t fancy cooking or you have a group over for a party, I’d definitely recommend firing up the Quattro and ordering a 4 Stagioni from Firezza: a pizza delivery service I’d truly recommend.

To order from Firezza go to http://www.firezza.com

Follow Firezza on Twitter at http://twitter.com/firezzapizza