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The Independent Culture

There is a fancy restaurant side to Poppies, The Roebuck, Brimfield (01584- 711230). However, stopping during a tour of the spectacular countryside along the Welsh border, I have only eaten in the pub. Here I found quickly-fried chicken livers to rival those offered by star chefs in swank London restaurants. All the food is good: stews, sharp green salads, tarts. The presiding genius is a cheery woman called Carole Evans. Her sidekick, a moribund fellow with a passing resemblance to Robert Morley, may or may not offer you wine. Open Tues-Sat lunch, 12-2, and dinner, 7-10pm. Rooms above. Three-course lunch menu pounds 20. Pub meals pounds 15. Restaurant pounds 25-30


Even the greediest of Eighties' speculators could not have anticipated the popularity of winding, low-ceilinged cellars in north Covent Garden. In the case of Jones Restaurant and Bar, 35 Earlham Street, WC2 (0171-240 2662), the cavernous premises have spun their own architectural style, a sort of subterranean Flintstones chic.The room is undoubtedly silly, but the food only sounds it. The man behind the wildly eclectic menu is Daniel McDowell, a bright young Bostonian who has travelled widely and trained briefly with Alastair Little. His kitchen produces excellent tempuras, glistening salads and hearty soups. Had McDowell got his rave reviews for a restaurant on street level, he would be famous. As it is, he is still underground. Open Mon-Fri lunch, 12-3, and Mon- Sat dinner, 6-11.30. Two-course set lunch pounds 9.50, three courses pounds 12.50. Dinner pounds 25-30. Vegetarian meals


Horton Grange, Seaton Burn (01661-860686), is a converted farmhouse in the grounds of Blagdon Hill. It is a favourite of visiting businessmen for three reasons: it is close to the airport, very comfortable and the food is good. Dinners come from five-course set-price menus. Palate cleansers of singed consomme may not be called for, but local venison and good sweets are genuinely pleasing. Open dinner Mon-Sat,

7-8.30pm. Set-price dinner pounds 32. Access, Visa, Switch, Delta


Delia, I trust you on suet pastry, but you should not promote baked risotto. There are plenty of baked rice dishes, but risotto is not one of them. For a taste of real Italian food, try the light and melting gnocchi as served as Marco's, 17 Pottergate (01603-624044). The place is named after Marco Vessalio, whose 25-year-old restaurant is something of a timbered museum piece. Best are the farinaceous dishes. Vegetarian meals. Open lunch, 12-2, and dinner, 7-9pm, Tues-Sat. Three-course lunch pounds 14. Major credit cards