Restaurants: Where shall we meet ... in Chefland?

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The Independent Culture
For those of us who lost the toss at the wrestling bout between our waistlines and pleasure, cookbooks are close to pornography. There can be few greater solo pleasures than curling up in bed with Jane Grigson's English Food, or even Ainsley's Barbie Bible.

Gary Rhodes (right), who won the Good Food Awards Best Book prize for his last tome, launched his sixth, Sweet Dreams, a book dedicated entirely to puddings, this week. It will be added immediately to the groaning pile of culinary gorgeousness which is already threatening to bring my kitchen cupboard crashing to the ground.

I religiously use Rhodes's bread-and-butter pudding recipe, which is to the normal version what vanilla sugar is to Nutrasweet; rich, sexy and exciting, with the perfect childlike combination of crunch, velvet and slop. When we visited his new restaurant, Rhodes in the Square, we had bread-and-butter pud, Jaffa Cake pudding (a chocolate-orange confection which looks like an oversized version of the sponge biscuit), a beautiful little rhubarb trifle with a spoonful of thick cream on the side in case it wasn't rich enough, and a perfect lemon tart with snappy pastry and just the right level of tang.

Rhodes in the Square has taken over the magnificent Art Deco dining-room at Dolphin Square, a strange conglomeration of serviced apartments in Pimlico much loved by MPs. It used to overlook the swimming pool, but frosting has been stuck over the glass so one can only hear disembodied splashes.

Like the food, it's a boys' joint - in the nicest possible way. The walls are midnight blue, the chairs are squashy, the lighting is brilliantly judged and the napkins big. The great majority of diners were male, including two parties of half-a-dozen lads in suits digging into foie gras, twice- cooked lamb and duck. The restaurant has also instituted a brilliant way round the wine-ordering problem (you need a decent sommelier to carry it off, and Rhodes in the Square's is a Master Sommelier), by having six bottles opened and aired which have been specially chosen to go with the night's menu, served as your food comes.

I have to say, though, that the food, though completely brilliant, definitely leans towards the male end of the spectrum. After three rich courses my head was spinning and I had to stagger from the table holding my stomach. I haven't felt like that since I gave up Christmas.

Rhodes in the Square, Dolphin Square, Chichester St, London SW1 (0171- 798 6767). `Sweet Dreams' is published by Hodder & Stoughton at pounds 20

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