Fastfood: Hard day at the office? Bit peckish? Fancy some company? Get some posh grub down the pub

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The Independent Culture
You're home for work, haven't had a chance to nip to Sainsbury's and the prospect of another night in front of the television munching beans on toast is less than alluring. What to do? Take yourself down to your local. In case you hadn't noticed, that smoky Earl-of-something on the corner, habituated by old men clutching their pints, has either already had its boozer-to-gastropub makeover, or is shrouded in scaffolding awaiting its metamorphosis.

These transformations are good news for those of us who like going for a drink and need a little more sustenance than several packets of bacon fries, but don't want the entire four-course restaurant experience. If you live in the country, this notion is probably second nature, but it has taken a while to catch on in cities. London pubs such as The Eagle in Clerkenwell, The Lansdowne in Primrose Hill, and The Cow and The Westbourne (pictured below) in Notting Hill are doing a roaring trade in anything from a steak sandwiches to roast guinea fowl.

According to a Mintel survey, pubs are the British public's favourite location for eating out; 54 per cent say they have eaten in a pub in the past three months. To reflect this trend, the Michelin Guide has included a separate classification for pubs in its 1998 edition.

Olly Daniaud, co-proprietor of The Westbourne in Notting Hill, which has been heaving since it opened its doors in May 1995, attributes its success to a more relaxed approach. Hearty, modern European food with an emphasis on Italian regional cooking, cooked to order, served quickly, and on the whole cheaper than a restaurant, is what attracts customers. There is the bonus of not having to book, so with most places it is a first-come basis - meaning you can keep your table for as long as you like, unlike in a lot of restaurants, which are now having two sittings.

Be warned: it's not the ideal location for a first date. But the really pressing question is, where do all the old men drink now?

The Westbourne, 101 Westbourne Park Villas, London W2 (0171-221 1332); The Lansdowne, 90 Gloucester Avenue, London NW1 (0171-483 0409); The Cow, 89 Westbourne Park Road, W11 (0171-221 0021); The Eagle, 159 Farringdon Road, London EC1 (0171-837 1353)

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