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CO. CORK If the name of The Ivory Tower, The Exchange Buildings, 35 Princes Street, Cork (00-353-21-274665) does not refer to its popularity among university lecturers, then it should. Academics, woolly as sheep, congregate at tables. New wave jazz might play on the hi-fi - austere stuff, some of it lovely, other strains more intellectual, more cats at midnight. Back in the kitchen, a lanky lad, probably sporting a Harlem high-top cap and splashy shirt, runs up whatever might take his fancy: a pike quenelleone day, a posh pizza made with puff pastry, the next. He is chef-proprietor Seamus O'Connell. His talent has its lackadaisical side: reports attest that standards are variable. Open Tue-Sat lunch 12-3 and dinner 6.30-12. Visa, Access, Eurocard. Lunch approx . Ipounds 10, set five-course dinner currently on offer Tue-Thur for Ipounds 15, all-in approx. Ipounds 3O.

CLEVELAND There are no bookings taken at DP Chadwick, 104b High Street, Yarm (O1642-788558). Rather, it is first come, first served. Locals don't seem to mind: partying starts in the queue, which, conveniently, winds along the bar. Food is OK: shop-bought ravioli, bresaola with good olive oil, very decent hot stuff. Wines, such as Hugh Ryman sauvignon blanc, are meant for quaffing. Finally, it is the explosive conviviality of the place that charms. Open Tue-Sat 11.30am-9.30pm. Cash and cheques only. Around pounds 20 for three courses, less at lunchtime.

LONDON No restaurant is perfect, but The Union Cafe, Marylebone Lane, London Wl (0171-486 4860) comes close. Outwardly, the large modern room, genial staff, and easy swing seem all very relaxed. Yet there is serious thought behind the place, particularly the fo od and drink. A long list of juices and soft drinks bravely - and considerately - offers customers options to well-chosen wines. The breads, short-breads and pastries are all home-made. The eggs, say in huevos ranchero, are pert and fresh. The saladleav es - watercress or the explosively hot Fordhook mustard - are garden fresh from a specialist farmer in Kent. A simple hamburger, made with freshly ground beef, will come with kitchen-made relish on sourdough toast. Peach sorbet will somehow taste peachie r than peaches themselves. Vegetarians are well served, not least by mushroom pierogi. And the bill will not confound: approx pounds 10-pounds 15 lunch, pounds 20-pounds 30 for dinner. Open Mon-Fri 10am-10pm (last orders). Access, Visa.

ONORTH YORKSHIRE Opinion is divided in the catering world about the wisdom of naming a restaurant after oneself. Certainly, it is tricky to sell Chez Nico if Nico does not come with the fixtures and fittings. Perhaps this is why the restaurant of the Rou x-trained chef, Michael Hjort, is called Melton's, 7 Scarcroft Road, York (01904-634341). At any rate, it might just as profitably be called A Very Nice place. Set in what was once a cornershop or a private home, it's dinky, to be sure, and set in an equ ally dinky Victorian terrace. Yet the running of the place is couth and confident: Michael Hjort can cook, be it venison with Cumberland sauce or conservative runs on flavours of the day, such as fillet of beef with polenta. While food is served with nor thern generosity, pricing reflects northern reserve: set price lunch or early dinner (5.30-6.15) pounds 13.90, dinner pounds 19.50, all-in approx. pounds 2O-pounds 3O. Open lunch (12-2) Tue-Sun, dinner (5.30-10) Mon-Sat. Access, Visa.