It's 3.45pm. It's hot. Three school boys step off a blistering hot pavement and sashay into the timeless cool of Marine Ices, 8 Haverstock Hill, NW3 (0171-485 3132). The last kid, clearly the nerd, catches his satchel in the door, spilling books willy-nilly. As he scrambles for his stuff, he glances embarrassedly over at the restaurant side of the operation, where a boisterous bunch of wine merchants are paying up before returning to their jobs - talking about drinking instead of doing it. The two other kids are already at the counter of the ice-cream parlour, ordering ice- cream cones. Two scoops each. By the time the third kid is ordering, the first two are out the door. The third kid studies the list seriously, then orders the lemon sorbet. This shows taste: the place is called Marine Ices for a reason. The lemon is excellent, particularly zingy and fresh- tasting. It seems to suit the kid to have been left behind. It's cool. He is eating slowly and studying the waitress. She wears fishnet stockings and jackboots. To judge from his expression, he likes the sorbet and his mother never wears fishnets. Ices: pounds 1.90 for two scoops. Open 12noon-11pm daily. Major credit cards
There is a great deal to be said about stopping off for a treat at Lisboa, 57 Golborne Road, W10 (0181-968 5242), not all of it appealing. There is rarely a seat inside. The seats outside may face onto a good street market, but are at the filthy fag end of the stalls, down-draft from the wind tunnel created by Trellick Tower. The hipsters who sit here wear shades, not simply to be cool, but because sitting here they get grit in their eyes. The staff serving tend to be rather harried. Friendliness is carefully rationed for the Portuguese locals for whom this place was orginally intended. However, while Lisboa's charms may seem limited, they are great: coffees, including the milky galao, are strong and energising. Best are the small custard tarts, the tops caramelised, the centres loose and rich. Seasoned interlopers buy these boxed, to take away. Lisboa also supplies them to the Islington shop Crowbar Coffee. Open daily 8am-8pm daily except bank holidays. Cash and cheques only
It was Sally Clarke, proprietor of Clarke's, 122 Kensington Church Street, W8 (0171-229 2190) who first convinced Neal's Yard Dairy to wholesale its excellent British cheeses (surely this deserves a damehood). Her restaurant next to the shop is modern, couth and serves beautifully balanced food, and possibly the best fish in London. Yet, oddly, she is most famous for her breads, which are not distinguished when compared to her other efforts, and less well known for her pastries, which are knock-out good. Lemon tarts, chocolate cakes and so on are perfectly made. New-fangled items, such as a scone filled with goat's cheese and red chilli, a new spin on the cream tea, are a welcome feature. The girls in the shop wear handsome green aprons, are knowledgeable about the food they sell and could not be nicer. Open 8am-8pm Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm Sat. Major credit cards except Amex
The croissants at Maison Bertaux, 28 Greek Street, W1 (0171-437 6007) are fine. The coffee - always filter - is very nice. Mainly, however, it is the scuffed charm of the place, the soft lighting on yellowing paint and the rather camp etiquette of the staff and customers in its tiny rooms that is so restoring. Come on a particularly pixillated afternoon, and a chap with an Austrian accent might start playing the accordion. Open 9am-8pm daily. Cash and cheques only
Once, according to local legend, 22 Cornwall Road, SE1, was a catmeat shop. For the last year and a half, it has been a tiny little bakery called Konditor & Cook (0171-261 0456). The owner is 35-year-old Gerhard Jenne, a German baker with a particular fondness for extravagant biscuits and cakes, hence the sables that look like early Brigid Rileys and the chocolate orange cake that looks like a brown velvet pillow. The apple cake is, according to Mr Jenne, a traditional wedding cake - given to friends not invited to the ceremony. Prices afford a certain indulgence, but not too much.
Sables: pounds 1.69/100g; summer berry almond tart pounds 1.35/slice; chocolate cake pounds 1.30. Open Mon-Fri 7.30am-6pm, Sat 8.30am-1.30pm. Cash and cheques only