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The Independent Culture
First the Hard Rock Cafe, then Planet Hollywood and the Fashion Cafe. Now the themed restaurant squad has a new player: sport. This is a concept imported from the States, where you can watch anything from Swiss volleyball to Malaysian ping pong while munching and slurping your way through an evening.

Babe Ruth's 172-176 The Highway, E1 (0171-481 8181), is the most recent offering - a lavish, vibrant restaurant "theatre", with an American baseball theme. In the upper-level bar, city workers sip garish cocktails on designer chairs under a giant television screen, while the restaurant on the lower level is bordered by the kitchen, showing off its large brigade of uniformed chefs. Stone, granite, glass and stainless steel all combine to give a very modern feel. Food is "International" with the usual grilled and sauteed Tex-Mex-style meat dishes, served in huge portions. Variety comes with pasta, pizza and a good range of salads. The basketball court, interactive computer games and shop selling sporting memorabilia create an uneasy mixture of restaurant and entertainment arcade. Open 11am-12 midnight Mon-Sat, 12noon-10.30pm Sun. About pounds 15-pounds 20

Football Football 57-60 Haymarket, SW1 (0171-930 9970), leaves you in no doubt what it's all about, as you enter the restaurant through a player's tunnel complete with roaring crowd. Every inch of this buzzing place is covered in football memorabilia. Huge screens hang from the walls showing classic footballing moments, while 'Nessun Dorma' shrieks from the sound system. Certainly not a place for an intimate dinner - it's difficult to eat, make conversation and take in the entertainment at the same time. The menu is very basic American diner - burgers, steaks, ribs, and fries with everything. A football fan's heaven, serving what is really an extension of a TV dinner. Open 12noon-12 midnight (Sun 10.30pm). Two courses plus beers pounds 15 Cafe East 15 London Stadium Hackney, Warterden Road, E15 (0181-525 0308), does its best to improve the traditional image of a night at the dogs. Richard Corrigan, Michelin-star-winning chef, oversees the restaurant, which has a grandstand view of the track. Races are every 15 minutes and bets can be made without leaving your seat. Personal television screens show the track and details of form (and EastEnders, if you prefer it) but don't forget to look at the menu, which includes brown onion and garlic broth, braised pork loin with pistachio and an apricot baked cheesecake. Depending on your luck, and judgement of things four-legged and furry, the real cost of the meal may fluctuate. Racing Mon, Wed to Sat, 7-11pm, first race 7.45pm. Closed Tues and Sun. Average for three courses without wine pounds 16-pounds 22

Ned Kelly's Albion Street/ Whitworth Street, Manchester M1 (0161-237 1380), is an Australian theme restaurant with authentic staff, native beers, and kangaroo, ostrich and shark cooked on an in-house barbecue. Outback soup, beach bar salad, bushman's barbecue and tucker nucker peanut pie are just a few of the intriguing dishes on offer. There's another branch in Nottingham. Open 12noon-12midnight (Sun 11pm). Three courses plus wine, pounds 20

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