Elena Salvoni, the capital's most loved maître d', recently celebrated her 83rd birthday in typical fashion - greeting her customers, taking orders and moving around her restaurant, Elena's Etoile in Charlotte Street, London W1 (tel 020 7636 7189) more nimbly than those half her age.
Her restaurant career began in 1942 at Le Café Bleu in Soho before she moved on to Bianchi's and then L'Escargot. Her success she once modestly attributed to her small stature. 'I am only 5ft tall so that when I approach customers seated at the table they look me straight in the eye and immediately feel at their ease. They are not looking up at someone much taller and possibly more intimidating.' A constant good nature, a lovely smile and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of her customers have been, I am sure, equally as important.