Restaurants: Where shall we meet in Putney

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
What are you waiting for, idle Brits? Eating out isn't just for anniversaries, it's for life - especially since it became something you could do cheaply and pleasantly in a local pub. Tradition has always held that you went to pubs for drink and restaurants for food. Nowadays, one can go to restaurants (the Drawing Room, Quo Vadis, Mezzo, Mash, Porters) for drinks and, increasingly, pubs for food.

This isn't a new phenomenon, though recognition of the Australian way of eating and a rise in the spending power of the female workforce have meant that it's one that is on the increase, and to everyone's benefit. We don't, as a nation, eat out much compared to other developed countries, and this must be laid squarely at the doors of our restaurants, who have, almost unanimously, been taking the mick with their prices for years (while hardly paying a living wage to their staff). If something can raise the average punter's expectations of good quality that doesn't require a second mortgage, we might actually end up with the range of decent eateries and watering-holes that the Parisians, Madrilenos and New Yorkers enjoy. And about time, too.

Very much a part of this revolution is the Coat and Badge, an Edwardian building just off Putney High Street that's named after Dogget's Coat and Badge, the annual river race that passes behind it. Part of Rupert and Joanna Clevely's Malthaven mini-chain, which includes the award-winning Duke of Cambridge in Battersea and the newly refurbished Crown in Chelsea, it has all the advantages of a pub (informal service and seating, animated atmosphere, open fire) without the dark walls, dominant television screen (they have one, but it's in a corner) and laddishness.

Head chef Mark Meier has come over from the Duke of Cambridge to regale punters with smoked chicken steaks, lobster ravioli, special salads and a good range of vegetarian grub. Ingredients such as aubergine, coriander and rocket, and methods like grilling - which 10 years ago were unheard of in relation to pub food - abound. This isn't Stephen Bull, but nor are the prices: you can get out of here well satisfied for under pounds 20. Go on. Get a babysitter and treat the old girl to some salmon fishcakes and a bottle of plonk. Your life will be richer for it.

The Coat and Badge, 8 Lacy Rd, London SW15 (0181-788 4900)