Eating out: Your usual table?

Who eats where
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

I love English breakfasts and have many happy memories of outstanding bacon, done properly with black grill marks, from Maria's Cafe in Belsize Park. Sadly it doesn't exist any more, but it was a real legend in the area at the time. Over breakfast you would see people playing chess, sketching or writing their novels on a lap top - very north west London. It had big windows through which to watch life go by, and was always wonderfully full. I absolutely hate an empty place.

Now I go to Cafe Bianco (12 Perrins Court, London NW3, 0171 431 0363) for a fried egg or two, when the loneliness reaches despair point. It does a good fry-up and has a vibrant al fresco eating area. Al fresco is one of Hampstead's great strengths. In the summer, as you sit and watch the Hampstead passaggio, you can almost feel as if you're in France or Italy. Cafe Bianco has a combination of friendly waiters, interesting people and good food, all of which count for a great deal when I'm eating out.

I also like a reasonable noise level, and I can't bear wine bar type places where everybody talks at once. They always remind me of the audience syndrome where one person standing up gets a good view, but if every- body stands up then no one can see. The hysterical jabber of everyone talking at once means that you can't hear anything at all.

For a comfortable dinner I go to Gresslin's (13 Heath Street, London NW3, 0171 794 8386), although now I'm a total miser I only go when my publisher takes me. It's a wholesome, rustic French type of restaurant which was recommended to me by the actor Peter Egon. I usually have pork medallions with apples or the rib-eye steak, both of which are good. The service is friendly and prompt which is a relief.

In these modern places, no one serves you. Everyone is an actor, mod- el or playwright in waiting, and they seem to be above it all. And being English, no one wants to make a fuss. So you sit there twitching and flapping your arms vaguely and wondering whether you're going to eat tonight.