My South End Green: Actor Lee Montague keeps schtum about his and Michael Palin’s favourite restaurant

Lee Montague prepares for a recent Keats Community Library fundraiser he hosted. Picture: Nigel Sutt

Lee Montague prepares for a recent Keats Community Library fundraiser he hosted. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Actor Lee Montague, 87, has countless credits to his name in film, television and theatre, from a career spanning more than 60 years since his first stage appearance at the Old Vic in 1950. He lives near to the Keats Community Library, which he helped to save from closure.

What brought you to South End Green?

We were looking for a house for an expanding family and it seemed ideal. A mixture of period houses, close to transport, shops, and, of course, the Heath. Lived here 55 years and staying a little while longer, I hope.

What makes it such a special place to live?

The village atmosphere. “I’m just popping out for five minutes” becomes 45 minutes due to the neighbourly chats. Mind you, I am talkative. The community spirit shows in the way Sainsbury’s was defeated [in its plans to open in South End Green]. That was a very vociferous, united campaign and I doubt it would have been so successful if residents didn’t know each other so well.

What is South End Green’s best-kept secret?

It has one of the best restaurants for miles around. But if I said which one, I would never be able to get in. The only clue I’ll give is that it’s Michael Palin’s favourite restaurant.

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You have a day off to spend as you wish in the area, what would you get up to?

All my days are off. I’m so fortunate to be able to spend much time in our local volunteer-run Keats Community Library. A haven and a boon for so many.

It you were editor of the Ham&High for a day, what would you most like to see reported?

I would take most of the roadway signs down and erect a pole with the name of the road on it. And hopefully all London will follow. I often tell my wife that when I get elected MP, it’s the first law I’m going to try to get passed. The lack of clear signs leads to people driving very slowly, causing accidents and road rage.

A film is set to be made about your life. Which actor would you choose to play you and why?

A resurrected Walter Matthau. My idol. I loved his brand of humour.

Who is the most inspirational person you have ever met?

A lady called Mamie Watson who was a drama teacher at Toynbee Hall, who saw something in this boy from the East End and urged him on.

If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say?

God knows, he tried.

Lee Montague was in conversation with Tom Marshall