Cliveden cool after Winner's tea and scones massacre

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The Independent Online
IF YOU thought Death Wish III was gratuitously violent, bloody and sadistic, you should have been at Cliveden for Michael Winner's latest exploit: The Tea and Scones Massacre. The film director and restaurant critic went to the pounds 290-a-night hotel with his companion Vanessa Perry and ate, drank and complained.

The tea was served before the scones, he thundered. The scones did not have "a hint of heat", the froth of the orange juice in the Bucks' Fizz left a residue on the glass. Mr Winner shouted at a waiter: "You idiot, how can you let this happen, this filth ... I am not a tourist from a coach ... I will make you look an idiot in The Sunday Times."

That is a fearsome threat. Many have been made to look idiots in The Sunday Times, not least its staff. And the Cliveden Hotel general manager, Ross Stevenson, was taking no chances: he has written a five-page memo about Mr Winner's behaviour last weekend and banned him from the hotel.

Yesterday, Charles Bronson being unavailable, I went to Cliveden to see how it was bearing up in the wake of The Tea and Scones Massacre. A charming gentleman said it was not always possible to have afternoon tea without a reservation but, as it was quiet, I and my companion could have a room to ourselves. It was an entire drawing-room overlooking the landscaped gardens. Fifteen-love to Cliveden.

Alas, there was cigarette ash on the table, spilt cream on another and chocolate-box wrappers on the floor. Thirty-fifteen to Michael Winner.

Two charming waiters put a tablecloth over the ash, laid out tea and scones (both warm, with all the crockery sparkling) and even put a Cliveden crested tea cosy over the pot.

Lest any Sunday Times readers were present, the room had a framed description of Cliveden announcing it as "a place of astonishing grandeur ... a magical home, with a special welcoming atmosphere."

Tea was reasonable, if not the most appetising I have ever encountered: scones, jam, cream, raspberry tarts, fruitcake and sandwiches. But pounds 32 for two was enough to show more than a touch of class.

So game, set and match to Cliveden. The somewhat unkempt appearance of the drawing-room may have lost it a couple of points, but banning Mr Winner gives it a degree of integrity that should for ever banish its reputation as the place where John Profumo frolicked with Christine Keeler three decades ago.

Mr Winner said Cliveden must be "so insecure", as it tells somebody not to go there again merely because they criticised the service. But, as another player in that first Cliveden scandal remarked: "He would say that, wouldn't he?"