David Parkin on the best restaurant that isn’t open

I KNOW what you are thinking.

It has been ages since Parky put a photo of himself in the blog.

Well, at least seven days.

There are people who have told me that they need their weekly fix of a Parky pic.

And if you don’t believe me then I’ll give you the visiting hours at their secure unit and you can confirm it.

This week is what in modern parlance might be called an uber pic.

It’s me in my latest clobber from tailor James Michelsberg.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, I’ve managed to convince James that I remain a willing, able and influential ambassador for his business.

And in a nod to the more relaxed approach to dressing for work these days, I decided to experiment with my latest creation from the master that is Michelsberg.

I chose a rather striking blue, grey and cream check in alpaca, wool and silk from Italian cloth mill Ferla, a specialist in alpaca wool.

You could say it is my small tribute to Geronimo, the alpaca who was put down by Government vets after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis earlier this year.

I wasn’t so much impressed by the frenzy from campaigners who wanted to save the stud alpaca who lived on a Gloucestershire farm, more the fact that the whole episode at least meant news stories were about more than just Covid-19 for a few days.

Anyway, back to my new jacket.

I decided to go for buttoned flaps on the pleated side and breast pockets which is a style often used on shooting jackets and James also suggested a navy alcantara tab on the lapel.

However I combined those traditional British tailoring touches with an unstructured shoulder and wider lapels with a high gorge which is a typical Neapolitan style.

Are you still with me?

James Michelsberg must have been because the jacket arrived just six weeks later and looks super and fits perfectly.

Knowing that this cloth would be too over the top for a suit, I chose a pair of mid grey flannel trousers to go with it.

I’ve always coveted a pair of maid to measure flannel trousers and when you are into your tailoring you can get as excited about a pair of grey trousers as you can a loudly patterned sports jacket.

Lawyer Richard Larking, another customer of Baron von Michelsberg, gave his assessment.

“Roger Moore safari meets David Gandy blue tab chic,” he said.

Rather than dwell on whether this was a compliment about my jacket, I choose to focus on the fact that both of these men are highly desirable to women.

And if you are still not convinced, then here is a photograph of the jacket on a mannequin.

And it’s up to you which dummy you prefer it on.

WHEN I was rather disparaging of Barefoot wines from California in a blog earlier this year, one person to take issue with me was Richard Jackson.

Given Richard is the former High Sheriff of West Yorkshire, I hoped he wasn’t going to send his posse after me.

But he is an urbane, charming individual and so rather than just telling me I was wrong, Richard decided to prove it.

When we met for coffee at the Drivers’ Club at Bowcliffe Hall near Bramham last week Richard came armed with a bottle of Barefoot Buttery Chardonnay as a gift.

I tried it a few evenings later and he is right, it is a very nice sophisticated wine that is reasonably priced.

I thanked Richard and said I was struggling to get hold of any bottles, with Sainsbury’s and other retailers saying that they were out of stock.

Richard said that is probably because he has bought up most of the stock.

In that case, I’m looking forward to his next party.

:::

WHENEVER talk turns to favourite restaurants in Leeds, those of a certain vintage will get a wistful look in their eye and say fondly: “Yes, but I miss La Grillade.”

And I’d agree.

Not just because I was a pal of the owner and could always rely on him for a welcoming glass of the house Corbieres from his own vineyard near Carcassonne.

The food was consistently good at La Grillade, the subterranean French restaurant on Wellington Street which was a popular Leeds destination for 33 years.

If I was offered a last meal I’d probably choose the crevettes thermidor and a rib-eye steak cooked medium rare with chips and salad just the way chefs Renzo and Willy used to do at La Grillade in its heyday.

A favourite of writer Alan Bennett, the restaurant didn’t just serve great food and have a huge tray groaning with exotic cheeses, it also provided a sense of theatre.

That was mainly down to the eccentric behaviour of owner Guy Martin-Laval.

Charm personified most of the time, the mood of the former Champagne salesman from Marseilles could change quickly, often triggered by his view that a diner was being bad mannered.

He once told me he’d ordered someone to leave who was rude to a member of his waiting staff.

I said to him: “I suppose that’s your job, isn’t it.”

Before La Grillade closed its doors for the final time, someone told me that Guy had been walking through the restaurant loudly chanting: “Barclays are banned! Barclays are banned!”

The reason why he had decided to banish one of the world’s largest financial institutions remains shrouded in mystery, but was almost certainly because of some perceived slight from an individual he thought worked for the bank.

Guy later reappeared in Ripon, opening a restaurant there which was kept going by visits from many of his old customers but ultimately foundered because of what le patron said was the parsimoniousness of the locals.

The last I heard, Guy had headed back to his native France.

We exchanged telephone calls but never managed to speak and so out of the blue a few weeks ago I got a call from Le Grand Fromage.

He was on a brief trip back to Yorkshire, where his youngest son, Antoine, still lives, and was catching up with various friends.

I met him for a coffee in Leeds along with another of his long-time customers and friends, Richard Boothroyd, the property entrepreneur.

I hardly recognised Guy.

Not because his greying hair is now silver, or because he looked slim and tanned.

Mainly because he was smiling.

When he ran a restaurant there never seemed a great deal to smile about.

Particularly when the occupants of his short-lived lobster tank didn’t seem to take to their new home and were found floating on the surface.

Guy was in fine fettle and is enjoying semi-retirement in France, skiing in the winter and swimming, sailing and cycling in the summer.

It sounds like a very agreeable lifestyle.

He says he currently doesn’t have a significant other but I’m sure his Gallic charm is being gainfully employed auditioning potential candidates.

Guy has many friends in Yorkshire and Leeds in particular and I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me if I’ve heard from him.

It struck me that it would be nice to put on a lunch or a dinner for him to which all his old friends and customers could attend.

There are so many brilliant and hilarious stories about Guy and La Grillade that I’m pondering organising a “roast” for him.

If you haven’t come across this kind of event, Dean Martin used to host such shindigs in the 1970s.

Each would have a guest of honour and then a cavalcade of celebrities, sitting on a dais in front of an audience, would take turns to tell funny stories about the “man or woman of the hour” who included Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Don Rickles, Lucille Ball, Ronald Reagan, Muhammad Ali and Lucille Ball.

You can still watch many of them on YouTube and the humour is sharp, sometimes withering but always warm.

When Channel 4 attempted to do a British version hosted by Jimmy Carr a few years ago, the edginess of his humour just didn’t work.

So that’s my idea: a lunch or dinner where old friends and acquaintances of Guy Martin-Laval take the mickey and pay tribute in equal measure to a man who created a Leeds restaurant institution that we still miss today.

Let me know if you are interested in taking part and I will do the rest.

Thinking about it, I think I could fill the room with just the people he banned from the restaurant – often accountants and lawyers whose advice he disagreed with.

And if you want to know how missed La Grillade is, I can tell you.

Ever since it closed its doors I’ve had to pay for my meals in restaurants.

Have a great weekend.

2 comments

  1. Chrissie

    Funny as ever, Parky 👌🤣😆 La Grillade, ah yes, those were the days. Great idea re. a shindig btw; count me in 💃🥂

  2. The Amazing

    David

    Great idea about Guy. I would love to attend. I could tell the story of him attending the music hall in Ilkley

    Like the jacket. It will ride up with wear. I hit 70 last Friday. Some wag said I did not look it but once did!

    Enjoy the blog every week

    Ian The Amazing Little Shutt

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