The great Fay Maschler is already getting nervous about May 7. That night, Action Against Hunger is holding an auction at Shoreditch House, an agonisingly fashionable private members’ club, and she has given herself, cooking dinner for four people, as one of the prizes. Many readers of Miss Maschler’s restaurant column in the London Evening Standard will be agog to discover what sort of figure she cuts behind the stove, particularly, perhaps, those restaurateurs who have fallen short of her demanding standards. Only the fact that her son Ben is organising the auction could have persuaded her to take part. Other lots include time in the kitchen with Alain Roux and the chance to stalk deer with The Ledbury’s Brett Graham and to go fishing in Ireland with Mark Hix.

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I met Miss Maschler on Lake Iseo, the smallest of the four lakes in Lombardy, Italy, in the area known to wine lovers as Franciacorta, home to the Bellavista winery. It makes, by the methode champenoise, a sparkling wine of the gods. La Scala in Milan serves nothing else. I notice that the ring of the wire cage over the mushroom cork is left outside the foil, to make it easier to open the bottle-useful in an emergency. I hope Miss Maschler has some at hand on May 7.

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