Eating Out: Your usual table? Who eats where Lesley Glaister, author

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The Independent Culture
My favourite food is my own lentil stew with caraway dumplings, eaten in huge amounts while curled up on the sofa. And when I'm sad the only thing that will do is Heinz tomato soup - the cheerful speckled orange is just so comforting and right. But I do love eating out - as long as it's nowhere stiff and pretentious. Across the road from me in Sheffield is a cafe-restaurant called Nonna's (539-541 Ecclesall Road, 0114 2686116). I often meet my friends there for lunch because it's so cheerful and bustly. They serve plates of crostini and bruschetta misti, topped with different nibbly delights, which are perfect for sharing during confidences and gossip. In the evening the food is also sublime. The best starter I've ever experienced is their tonno carpaccio - wafer-thin tuna marinated in lemon to create the most delicate melt-in-the mouth appetite sharpener. When I first had it, my partner and I hardly spoke for fear of wasting a moment of taste-experience.

I've spent the last two summers in Orkney and heard The Creel (Front Road, St Margaret's Hope, Orkney, 01856 831311) recommended so often and so highly I didn't believe anywhere could be that good - but I very happily ate my words. It serves local seafood so fresh it's practically wriggling, as well as Orkney beef and lamb. All of their produce is local. One pudding - a brandysnap basket filled with creme caramel and chocolate mousse, served with a butterscotch sauce, was so sensational it brought furtive tears to my eyes. It felt obscene to eat it in public.

My very favourite way of eating fish is in batter with chips, and the Pierwall Hotel (Pierwall, Westray, Orkney, 01857 677208) serves the best fish and chips in the world. It's a cosy little bar-come-sitting room-come-cafe. You sit with the locals, eating and watching TV or reading the piles of ageing magazines. The menu extends to about eight varieties of fish, all caught locally, that come sizzling and stretching way beyond the margins of the plate. My other great love is pub food and I used to go my locals around comparing ploughman's lunches - just for my own amusement.

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