DEVOTEES of Fay Maschler's column in the London Evening Standard cannot fail to be aware that the doyenne of restaurant critics has been busy compiling a guide book which, as she frequently mentions, will be published on 7 October. It seems her colleagues on the Standard are clamouring to get in on the act, weighing in with their opinions of Planet Hollywood, the Tinseltown theme restaurant that was launched with such stupendous elan in May.

On the Tuesday before last, under the headline, 'The burger bar that's looking more and more like a turkey,' Paul Dymond argued that the Planet's 3,000 customers a day falls short of pre-launch predictions and the place is therefore a failure. The following Friday, under the heading 'Huge new queues on the burger block', and with the word 'retraction' notably absent, Rohan Daft (sic) took the contrary view and declared the queue to be quite long enough, thank you.

The articles said nothing about the food at Planet Hollywood, leading the Gastropod to the inescapable conclusion that neither writer has visited the place. Indeed, few restaurant reviewers have deigned actually to eat there. Our own intrepid Emily Green dutifully stood in the queue and made it as far as the bar, before remembering an urgent appointment in a wine bar around the corner. The notable exception is Nigella Lawson, who attended the opulent opening party and denounced the food as 'vile' in the Spectator.

The Gastropod, whose motto is 'believe the hype' and who writes this wearing a baseball cap, T-shirt and boxer shorts all emblazoned with the Planet Hollywood logo, isn't concerned with the length of the queue because, as a VIP, he possesses a privilege card entitling the bearer to proceed directly to the bar. Seriously, though, this column endorses the view of William Leith, the columnist in our Sunday sibling, who accurately captured the atmosphere of the place several weeks ago and declared his burger to be 'fine'.

When asked whether she felt her position as the Standard's restaurant critic was being usurped, Ms Maschler replied that Planet Hollywood is not strictly a restaurant since it seems to her to be less concerned with food than selling T-shirts. Consequently, she has not beamed down to the Planet in person and it won't feature in her guide when it appears - did I mention? - on 7 October, which is, coincidentally, the same day as the new edition of The Good Food Guide.

THE LAST new British cheese to be launched was probably Lymeswold, the characterless, creamy stuff whose name was used by Private Eye as a term of derision before it was withdrawn from sale due to huge public indifference. Perhaps that's why the makers of Truckledown, a semi-hard, full-fat, cow's milk cheese made with vegetarian rennet, want to emphasise that it is based upon a recipe handed down through four generations of farmers and cheesemakers.

What's more, it has already won a couple of prizes, a second place at the Nantwich International Cheese Show (the largest in Europe) and a first at the Great Eccleston Show.

Truckledown has a distinctively tangy, cheddary taste and a texture that is both crumbly and melting, making it suitable for cooking. It is widely available throughout the North-west and Midlands and in London from Fortnum & Mason for about pounds 2.30 per pound.

The Gastropod discovered that if a piece of Truckledown is posted and lies around in a sweltering sorting office for a couple of days before being squeezed through a letter box, it achieves a spreadable consistency and can make an interesting sandwich when combined with dollops of mango chutney.

TO CONVEY the full range of exciting possibilities presented by Truckledown cheese, its producers will perhaps resort to publishing a useful booklet like the one published by the Butter Council, called Presenting Butter, which is packed full of tips on flavoured butters, moulded butter and the correct way to make butter balls.

We learn that 'with a little practice and the right piece of equipment, the art of butter curling is at your fingertips]' However, the handy hints section reminds us to 'handle butter hygienically and avoid using your hands at all costs' since 'tell-tale fingerprints are easy to spot]'

At last the Gastropod begins to comprehend why Marlon 'butterfingers' Brando's performance with Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris caused such consternation.

THE RESPONSE has been massive to the competition in which six readers can win a Magimix Le Glacier ice-cream maker and a copy of Ices, The Definitive Guide by coming up with six flavours to complete Albert Clark's range of English ice-creams. There is still time to enter by fax to 071-956 1739 before midday on Monday. Those with recipes for summer pudding or Christmas pudding ice-creams need not apply, since we have dozens already, but original recipes for savoury ice-creams are particularly welcome. The results will be published in a fortnight, but meanwhile, the Gastropod has discovered the most decadent chocolate ice-cream. Made by the Belgian chocolatiers, Godiva, it's available only from their store in Regent Street, London.

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