Neil Heshmat, 71, has worked at French restaurant Oslo Court for 45 years where he has been a star turn for Londoners.
The restaurant near Regent’s Park has been a regular haunt for VIPs over the decades including US President Lyndon Johnson, former prime minister David Cameron, film director Michael Winner and regular diner Matt Lucas.
Comedian Lucas even chose the restaurant as his luxury item when he appeared on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs because of the waiter.
Lucas told the show Mr Heshmat was a major reason for the choice such was his “flamboyant” way of wheeling out the dessert trolley.
He joked: “Am I allowed to take a restaurant? Oslo Court. It’s amazing. The best thing is the dessert waiter there. He’s very flamboyant.”
Mr Heshmat, originally from Egypt, has now been rewarded for his showmanship and knowledge of desserts. The title of the UK’s most popular waiter was based on the number of mentions he has had over the years in restaurant reviews online and in print.
He has been favourably referenced more than any other member of restaurant staff in the UK. Of the 657 ‘excellent’ TripAdvisor reviews of Oslo Court, Mr Heshmat is mentioned in 92.
Some 30 per cent of Yelp reviews for Oslo Court also mention him positively by name or title. The data has been crunched by Superb, a guest experience management system used by restaurants.
The Evening Standard’s restaurant critic Fay Maschler was among those to praise the waiter.
She wrote in 2018: “Neil, who is in charge of the desserts displayed on a trolley and who has worked in the restaurant since 1976, charms and coaxes and provokes us into lemon meringue pie and raspberry mille-feuille served with ice cream.”
On his new status as the UK’s most popular waiter Neil, whose favourite dessert is the creme brûlée, revealed the secret of his success.
He said: “I never grumble. I give people love but also it helps that I am giving people cake. I try to make it an experience - when my mother died I would wear all her jewels when I worked. Her diamonds, emeralds and rubies, it was never just about pushing the trolley, it was about putting on a show as well.
“I even served the late President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird. They used to love coming here and we would make them tremendously comfortable. But I try and make everyone feel that way. I always look after the customers as if they are my own family.” However, he joked not every day in the job had been a triumph.
He added: “One day, thirty years ago, I was flambéing a crepe suzette in front of a table and I set fire to the dining room.
“We have such low ceilings here it is too much of a risk to do it any more as there is so much that can catch fire, we stopped doing it after that day! My boss Mr Sanchez is such a wonderful man he didn’t shout or scream, we look after each other like a family.”
Zaedo Musa, Founder and CEO of Superb, said: “Neil is an inspiration to the restaurant industry and to all those who appreciate that there is more to an incredible dining experience than just the food.”