In this series, famous food lovers talk to You restaurant critic Bowles about all matters culinary, from earliest memories and favourite dishes to things they can’t bear.
This week journalist and TV presenter Anne Robinson shares her stories.
My life in food- Anne Robinson
My mother ran a market stall in Liverpool, then a poultry-importing business which supplied the restaurants and ships.In those days, there was only one smart place you could eat in Liverpool and one in Manchester – the Adelphi and The Midland. We supplied all the chickens, so we used the restaurant at the Adelphi Hotel as our canteen. It was very grand old-fashioned French food.
The sisters at my Catholic boarding school were quite horrid but knew how to cook. The food was surprisingly good for the 1950s.Fresh rolls every morning, plenty of butter. Lots of corned beef and Spam. Though I never liked the pilchards in tomato sauce.
Anne was brought up on ‘old-fashioned english cooking’.Her favourite meal is still lamb chops with mashed potatoes
Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon- a favourite of Anne’s for Sunday brunch
I can dress a pheasant and skin a rabbit. When my brother and I came home from boarding school in the summer, we had to do four weeks on the market stall, which my mother always retained.
There was also a section of the business where they dressed the poultry. Once we’d done our month we’d then spend the rest of the summer at the Carlton hotel in Cannes. It was the hotel, and you saw the most amazing people – Sugar Ray Robinson, King Farouk [of Egypt].
I suppose you don’t know at that age that this was quite a grand way to go on holiday. We were very much new money.
My mother always cooked. She ran a business and was the main breadwinner but in those days, as a woman, she still came home and cooked in the evening.We ate old-fashioned English cooking. Lamb chops, fried onions and mashed potatoes would be a very typical supper. Along with mashed carrots and turnips, which you never get now. We also had calf’s liver and duck, as well as game. We always had goose at Christmas.
The first time I had Chinese food I felt like a lumpy Northern girl.
I’d never been to any Asian places in childhood, although my mother’s business supplied all the Chinese restaurants in Liverpool. At home, we’d never had Asian food of any kind. I remember it was my first month on The Sunday Times and we all went to Soho to one of the best Chinese restaurants.
Of course, I had never used chopsticks before (which was embarrassing).
When I worked at The Mirror newspaper, lunch was often shared with the likes of Alec Guinness and Mick Jagger. There was a corporate dining room.The editor would whistle when lunch was ready and the most amazing people would be there. People didn’t have PRs in those days, so you’d walk in and think, ‘This is like Madame Tussauds.’ It was grand food, as money was no object in those days. I’d given up drinking by the time I went there at the end of the 70s (but others hadn’t), sportsbook software so nothing really happened until about 3.45 in the afternoon. But we still produced brilliant newspapers.
Anne said the first time she had Chinese food I felt like a lumpy Northern girl .She’d never been to any Asian places in childhood, although my mother’s business supplied all the Chinese restaurants in Liverpool
My canteen now is Clarke’s in Kensington. I’ve been living near Sally Clarke since she started that restaurant.
I remember 30 years ago when she’d take the pans out of her Ford Anglia at the start of the day. It’s wonderful food, but occasionally she has something with a bit of chilli in. I really can’t stand things like coriander or lemongrass -and definitely not chilli.
She always cooks it for me without the chilli. Sally is brilliant. She’s there every day and even takes your reservation – what other well-known cook does that? She’s my heroine. When you look at one of her menus, you want to eat everything. She displays the food so well, too.
I’m not a bad cook.I gave up Latin the term before O-levels and switched to cookery. I then went to finishing school in Paris and we had a day a week at Le Cordon Bleu [cooking school].
Anne ate lots of corned beef and spam at her Catholic boarding school
Because we’re new money and we’re Irish, it’s embarrassing in my house if the food isn’t groaning on the table and there isn’t enough for twice as many people who are sitting around it.I entertain quite a lot. And I’m quite fond of Sunday brunch – friends tend to come Saturday morning and stay for the weekend. I do brunch at about 11.30 on a Sunday – a huge mix of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, burrata and tomatoes – the whole lot.
I only go to restaurants now if I can bring my dog.
I have to have my spaniel Hattie with me. So there’s Clarke’s, The River Café in Hammersmith, Lucio on the Fulham Road and Le Colombier in Chelsea, where I sit in the conservatory with Hattie. I’ve known that crew since they were in a brasserie in Yeoman’s Row in Knightsbridge.
It’s a proper old-fashioned restaurant. And I think it’s probably mostly used by old-fashioned people.
I didn’t like the food at Media City [in Salford] when I was doing Countdown. So I would head back to my hotel – the Dakota in Manchester – and they’d always make me lunch: soup and some poached salmon.
The last meal I’d eat before I die is mashed potatoes, grilled onions and lamb chops cooked rare.I like everything rare.