Food & Drink: Bites Islands

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The Independent Culture
Escape to an island hideaway, without travelling too far

Assaggi, 39 Chepstow Place, London W2 (0171-792 5501). Mon-Sat lunch and dinner. The bare tables in this boldly coloured room above a pub are highly sought after for Nino Sassu's cooking. From the carte da musica (paper-thin crispbread) onwards, he gives away his Sardinian origins by sourcing several key ingredients from the island. Bottarga (grey mullet roe) is another speciality, possibly paired with fennel. Prices are high: at least pounds 30 if you have a main course. House wine, for pounds 10.95 a bottle, is Sardinian.

Casa Santana, 44 Golborne Road, London W10 (0181-968 8764). Daily noon- 11pm. In an enclave of Portuguese cafes and restaurants, this one owes its allegiance to Madeira, as a huge poster of the capital, Funchal, illustrates. More a cafe than a full-blown restaurant, it's populated by Portuguese men there for the beer - Coral from Madeira - and the telly. It provides plain meals in the Portuguese vein, starting with a chourico sausage flaming on a ceramic pig, or chicken soup, moving on to sardines, swordfish or tuna with boiled potatoes - all for less than pounds 12.

Offshore, 148 Holland Park Avenue, London W11 (0171-221 6090). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner. Mauritian and mainly seafood, this fuses the island's diverse influences - Chinese, Indian and French - into creamy sauces, with lively spices, for exotic fish. Examples are prawns with ginger and spring onion, red snapper with a coconut-milk curry, Mauritian bouillabaisse (expect more bite in the bowl) and grilled fish such as vaqua with creole sauce. Prices from pounds 14.50 for the two-course lunch, up to pounds 40 for five courses.

Isle of Eriska, Ledaig, Argyll (01631 720371). Daily lunch and dinner. Closed January. You're hardly going to drop by on the off-chance for dinner, so you should know that rooms at the five-star, Scots baronial hotel cost from pounds 220 for a double. The whole island is given over to guests. Cooking is impressive - complex, modern French with Scottish flavours shining through: wild rabbit and courgette timbale with Bresse pigeon and spring turnips; guinea fowl with artichokes, St Georges mushrooms, and salsify confit. Dinner is pounds 37.50 a head.

Priory Bay Hotel, Priory Drive, Seaview, Isle of Wight (01983 613146). Daily lunch and dinner. This smart but family-friendly hotel by the sea was opened last year by the founder of the New Covent Garden Soup Company. The table d'hote menu is pounds 23 for fairly straightforward food such as Italian charcuterie or smoked salmon and blinis with pesto; clams and moules marinieres with chips, or veal Saltimbocca. A la carte is more elaborate for pounds 25- plus. In summer, grilled seafood is served Caribbean-style in a cafe on the beach.

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