Restaurants: Reality bites

No wonder the ladies who lunch can afford to go shopping all afternoon - it's because they've saved so much money by eating at the best restaurants at the cheaper time!

It's this kind of twisted logic that has got me into trouble with numerous bank managers over the years, but the fact of the matter is that if you want value for money from restaurants, lunch is increasingly where you can get the best deals.

Everyone from Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant in Chelsea to Axis at the new London hotel, No 1, Aldwych are introducing fixed-price lunches at least half their usual rate per head.

At the Atlantic Bar and Grill they've recently introduced a three-course lunch for pounds 14.90. One main course a la carte would be that price alone. So why do it?

"We're quieter at lunchtime and basically we want to get more people to think about eating here then. We've got the space, so we might as well use it," says a spokeswoman.

In the City, though, the opposite is the case. In expense-account-land restaurants like "10" are putting on free tutored wine evenings in a bid to attract customers after office hours.