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Food critic Michael Winner barred from chef Jean-Christophe Novelli's gastropub

24 April 2006

Famously outspoken food critic Michael Winner was refused entry to celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli's new restaurant.

Winner had booked a table for lunch at the fiery Frenchman's gastropub The White Horse, in Harpenden, Herts, but was greeted with a message that he was not welcome.

Novelli, the star of reality TV show Hell's Kitchen, said the writer and film director had in the past upset many of his friends, staff and customers with his "rude and pompous attitude".

But Winner hit back, saying he felt like writing a letter to Novelli to thank him for saving him from eating at his "awful" restaurant.

The chef said he would consider letting Winner have something to eat in the bar of his new restaurant if he apologised to the people he had "hurt" in the past.

Speaking from Andalucia in Spain, Novelli said: "I've been waiting a long time for this moment.

"It is not to be personal or egotistical - it is a matter of principle and is purely for every single one of my friends, staff and customers who has had the misfortune to be distracted by Michael Winner's rude and pompous attitude."

Winner said: "I think he's a terrible chef. I went to a restaurant of his 10 years ago and I have never been since.

"My girlfriend wanted to go to his restaurant in Harpenden and being a gentleman to the end I went to this place. We were sitting in the car park and she said, ‘It's a bit like a Little Chef'. I said, ‘I think you're being rather kind'."

Winner looked around the dining room - which he described as like "Ikea on a bad day" - before being told by staff that Novelli had decided he was not welcome.

He said: "I was saved. It was like God had wished to save me. I thought I must send him a thank you note."

Instead of dining at Novelli's gastropub, Winner and his girlfriend went to the medieval Brocket Arms in nearby Ayot St Lawrence.

"I was absolutely thrilled to bits. I had a wonderful day in this lovely 14th-century country pub and wandering around the village," said the food critic.

A Touch of Novelli at The White Horse, which opened three months ago, is the first of a planned chain of 10 gastropubs around the country.

Novelli at the White Horse >>

Novelli quits Brocket Hall >>

By Sam Marsden, PA News

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