Eating Out: Your usual table?

Who eats where: Steven Berkoff, actor

I am influenced by Huysmans, who wrote a book called Against Nature, where the hero is fascinated by contrasts in foods. His theory was that while you might enjoy the Ivy, say, you'd eventually get jaded by the high standards and crave a gross meal. Most things are acceptable, depending on your occasion or mood. Food is a drama, and eating out should be a ritual experience, bordering on the religious. If it's wrong it's so disappointing. I've run out of restaurants in fury on occasions.

For me, one wonderful meal is a kebab at Sarcan Kebabs 2 (Upper Street, N1, 0171 354 0697). Bronzed meat is sliced and crushed into a pitta with onion, pickles and spicy sauce. You have to stretch your mouth like a snake, almost dislocating your jawbone, as you try to stuff this feast down. Sitting at the counter, watching yourself wolfing ferociously in the mirror, inspires a carnal lust for food. It's like illicit sex. I sometimes wonder why they don't put it in a bigger pitta, but that would spoil the fun.

In contrast, Mitsukoshi (14 Lower Regent Street, SW1, 0171 722 1869) is a very meditative experience, with tranquil sushi and wonderful spinach in pickle sauce. Certain places are emotional stops for me. Harry Morgan (31 St John's Wood High Street, NW8, 0171 930 0317), a Jewish deli, serves the best chicken soup ever. I have an amazing emotional response whenever I go there, an echo of childhood - my life flashes before me.

Places to avoid are those with bad service. It's a reflection of the English nature - I don't want to be reminded of their cold indifference, and good service makes you forget. If you're feeling fragile, avoid restaurants in chain hotels - they're abominations and can leave you feeling suicidal. I also make a point of avoiding restaurants that attract the vulgarian, stupid rich. Some places, thankfully, have an atmosphere that keeps these people away.

Steven Berkoff's autobiography "Free Association" is published by Faber&Faber

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