The First Lady of Soho.

Elena Salvoni MBE died yesterday at the age of 95. She was Soho’s most famous maitre d’. A tiny London Italian, she had, since the 1950s, fronted some of Soho’s most celebrated restaurants until her reluctant retirement at the age of 92. Described as “the kindest woman in London” Elena was adored by some of the most famous people in the world. When I was writing a book set partly in pre-war Clerkenwell – London’s Little Italy, I went to L’Etoile to see her because this she grew up in pre-war Clerkenwell. She told me the most wonderfully evocative stories, and that she too was writing a book. Hers was called Eating Famously, part autobiography, part recipe book featuring the stars’ favourite dishes. When our books were published, I signed hers and she signed mine. I didn’t know her that well but her unique gift was making me – and everyone else – feel like we did.