Tanya Gold

Marco Pierre, why?

Yes, worse than those Knorr commercials. When did he stop caring about food?

Marco Pierre, why?
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Wheeler’s is such a dreadful restaurant that I wonder if Marco Pierre White even knows his name is on it. I suppose, for legal reasons, we must assume he does, and was not held hostage in a cellar while they built and fretted and hung inflated photographs of their prisoner all over it, like the bedroom of a starlet in full madness.

We must assume that White knows that Wheeler’s of St James’s, which was a famous restaurant, was closed, and reopened inside the Thread-needles hotel in Bank, and it does have his name on it, and this is the worst thing he has ever done; worse than promoting Knorr stock for Unilever — ‘the best thing to happen to cooking since me’ — which he sold by implying that if you bought Knorr stock, you would not only get a base for a soup or stew, you might get full sex from White, or at least a grope.

You know the original celebrity chef has reached a nadir of greed and self-disgust when, at the entrance to this newish cave — it opened last year, and I tried to review it then, but they telephoned to cancel, saying they had forgotten they were closed — there is a vast photograph of him in his youthful beauty, that is, in 1987, at Harveys in Wandsworth. He sweats, pouts, and strokes a meat cleaver, as if it were a lover, and maybe it was, to him; two parts anger to one part need, he is the Phantom of the Opera, sponsored by Knorr.

The Threadneedles Hotel was beautiful too once, when it was a bank, which seems preposterous; now it smells of Toilet Duck. The lobby is full of people breathing Toilet Duck fumes and thinking they are somewhere special, because a photograph of White is outside the door, with a caption saying ‘Let’s do lunch’; do they know they are breathing Toilet Duck fumes inside a narcissistic delusion or hoax? The dining room is mid-Victoriana mated with Ernst & Young. The decoration is gauche minimalist, to emphasise its size; it is as if Prince Albert threw out all the gilded furniture in a rage and replaced it at Ikea. Red leather chairs have rings of metal on the back, possibly to detain the clientele against their will.

Inside this room — this deal — is a restaurant that actually angers me. The menu is dull, but you cannot blame a restaurant for lack of imagination, not in the City of London; it serves the usual lunch for the thwarted carnivore: steaks; fish; pastas; salads.

We wait for 30 minutes for our starters in an almost empty room; every five minutes, an orange man sings: ‘Five minutes more!’ It arrives, and it is disgusting: my macaroni cheese is a yellow soup of salt. Thirty--five minutes after the plates are cleared, after further futile interventions from the orange man, the main course comes.

My companion has the pork; it is, she says, OK. I have risotto, which is dotted with pieces of burnt cauliflower and inedible. If that is a dish, and apparently it is, it should be suppressed. I place my plate to the side — one, two, three waiters walk past it; maybe they think I ordered lunch but am not hungry? The orange man has disappeared, possibly to sing an aria to cauliflower. I tell the man who clears the plates: this is inedible. He offers to take it off the bill, but he forgets, or lies.

I wonder how the youngest chef to win three Michelin stars, the miracle of Wandsworth, came to this; when did he stop caring about food? I look at my cloakroom ticket; it is, laugh-ably, a laminated photograph of Marco Pierre White. He is not the first famous man to be eaten by his own myth; but I cannot recommend it.

Lets Run Away To Gretna Green And Go Shopping
‘Let’s run away to Gretna Green and go shopping.’
Wheeler’s Oyster Bar and Grill Room, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AY, tel: 020 7657 8144.