Restaurants; The ladies who brunch

Joe's is where the It-Girls meet up for bloody marys and Sunday brunch. Vivienne Heller gets in with the in-crowd
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The Independent Culture
KATE AND I have both been in the wars recently: she's been learning the ins and outs of survival before heading off to report on events in Kosovo, while I've got all manner of sordid scars after decorating my new flat. Time for an injection of upmarket urban elegance - and how better than Sunday brunch?

Joe's, in South Kensington, the culinary arm of the fashion empire of Joseph Ettedgui (right), is one of a cluster of chic restaurants within a high-carat-stone's throw of the Conran Shop and other mouthwatering style meccas. By the time we arrived last weekend, other lucky punters had already grabbed the two patio tables, so we ventured inside. The glorious sun filtered down through Joe's long, thin entrance before giving up the ghost in the face of a mulch of greys, creams and beiges: soothing hangover decor, and a complementary backdrop to the other diners - elegant young couples whose pastel pashminas failed to soften their frosty, faintly bored demeanours.

The paper tablecloths, wavy-edged to echo a vaguely maritime theme (portholes, curvy coving), were a cheerful, if strangely downmarket, contrast. Heartened, Kate and I seated our shambling entourage on the brown banquettes, and commandeered menus. Here were all the ingredients for a traditional brunch with a classy twist. The wide selection of juices, including mango and peach, wooed me away from my usual bloody mary, while Kate's caffe latte was a pretty glass of swirling browns and whites resembling nothing so much as a half of Guinness - what a way to start the day!

Walnut bread was thoughtfully provided to sustain us through the interminable delay before our order arrived. It was worth the wait. My perfect smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (pounds 10.50) was scattered with chives and accompanied by a perky salad. Kate declared her pumpkin risotto (pounds 11.50) a resounding success: "nice and light, with a different texture and flavour." We sampled our companions' eggs Florentine and Benedict (pounds 8.25), and found them faultless too.

A black-clad waitress, wearing an accessory frown, sidled up with the dessert menu. We mimsy females put up a scintilla of resistance before tucking into the boys' choices: the lemon tart was delicious, though we felt the blackberry-and-apple crumble lacked a certain fruity joie de vivre. We contented ourselves with polishing off the side helping of clotted cream and strawberries. This was a sensible move, as we then felt too sluggish to balk at the astronomical bill (an overpriced pounds 24 a head).

Four people in a dead faint might have stretched Kate's new first-aid skills just a little too far...

Joe's is at 126 Draycott Avenue, London SW3 (0171-225 2217)


La Brasserie 272 Brompton Rd, SW3 (0171-584 1668)

The Collection 264 Brompton Rd, SW3 (0171-225 1212)

Patisserie Valerie 215 Brompton Rd, SW3 (0171-823 9971)