Restaurants: Chef-d'uvre

For world food with a wicked twist, Wiz has the answer, says Vivienne Heller
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The Independent Culture
I've just mooned at Michael Winner! Well, who wouldn't, given half a chance? My opportunity came courtesy of the restaurant Wiz, whose loo seats are printed with the ghostly visage of the rude food man himself.

It was the crowning glory of an evening at Antony Worrall Thompson's newest concern, tucked away in Holland Park. Well suited to its cosmopolitan locale, Wiz boasts a menu to make globetrotters weep. Thus my footloose friends Alice and Kate settled in with beatific smiles - helped no end by goblet-sized glasses of kir with a delicious lemon twist.

The menu is divided into seven sections - "cultures or countries" - featuring six or seven small dishes. Choose the chef's selection in each for a balanced combination, or "surf the world" by picking them individually.

We chose package deals to the "Mediterranean" and "Italy", and dabbled in the "Spice Trail" and "France", aided by a charming waiter with a flamenco click to his heels. Feeling thoroughly at home, we chilled out with a pinot grigio, and caught up on our travelling tales.

Dishes arrive as and when they are ready, in a steady stream of taste sensations that each evoke memories of sunnier climes. Alice dipped into a creamy dhal and held forth on India; baked reblochon cheese with tart apple jelly set Kate off on a French reminiscence; while sweet, succulent pumpkin ravioli with sage butter transported me to Italy. Also memorable were the dark, richly intense balsamic chicken livers, a melting seared tuna in a garlic, chilli and soy sauce, and Moroccan carrot rolls that combined comforting stodge with a polenta crunch. Other dishes were blander, but all contributed to a spectacularly pretty spread: orangey hummus, thickets of red chard, couscous studded with bright vegetables, a bulging chicken filo pie... Starved of each other's company for several weeks, we grazed happily through the menu, juggling holiday soundbites with forkfuls of food.

The wrought-iron chairs bore up well under the increasing strain, while tapestry seat cushions, in warm russets and yellows, helped mellow us after our main-course feeding frenzy. Perhaps a little too much: any remnants of restraint slithered away with the dessert menu. Cinnamon parfait was a creamy antidote to the intense flavour of dark poached pears; a heavenly passion-fruit creme lurked beneath a thin, brittle brulee crust. They were a solid, familiar finale to an international feast.

Culture shock assuaged, we rolled out into the leafy, moonlit street, happy to be home after a marvellous evening jetsetting in the comfort of our own backyard.

Wiz, 123a Clarendon Road, London W11 (0171-229 1500) pounds 12-18 a head without wine

GLOBAL GRUB

10 Cutlers Garden Arcade, 10 Devonshire Sq, EC2 (0171-283 7888)

Helter Skelter 50 Atlantic Road, SW9 (0171-274 8600)

The Rapscallion 75 Venn Street, SW4 (0171-787 6555)

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