Restaurants; Where shall we meet ... in the City?

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The Independent Culture
The Jamaica Wine House claims, like half the bars in the City of London, to be situated on a historic site, in this case London's first coffee house. If this is so, and this really is where Johnson, Pepys et al bored everyone on a diet of fresh-ground, then it seems one of the most appropriate places to go looking for the Masters of the Universe as they boast about their latest acquisitions.

Although, over recent years, the City has sprouted a number of female- friendly bars, everyone knows, deep down, where the girlies stand. Most of the bars in this area remain obdurately male-orientated.

Entering the Jamaica Wine House - where the staff, by the way, were charming, and not at all off-putting - is like taking a giant leap back in time. This is a world where women don't feature at all, where signs say "All our beers are hand-pulled" and "Bottled beers from around the world", and every hand totes a pint of bitter.

The City is another world. People say things like "Bodders, old chap, looking prosperous as ever" or "You've got to take an annual income. We're not going to let you just take the cash and blow it", and don't feel remotely self-conscious about doing so.

One feels suddenly colour-blind on entering a place like this. Everyone is decked out in shades of grey; only the complexions are colourful. At a table, I spot a man in what looks quite trendy for the financial markets: a black jacket with what looks to be a Nehru collar. I'm about to note his appearance when he turns slightly and I realise that he's a priest.

It's a pleasant enough place, if you can cope with so much manliness. A large room in itself, the ground floor (the cellar is dedicated to blokeish dining facilities) is divided by high, leather-varnished panels into sort of loose boxes. This is, I think, in order to provide more of those elbow-height shelves where men can lean rather than look for table space. Why is this? I think I know why. Men actually prefer it this way. Why do they prefer it? Because, unencumbered by the constrictions of sitting down, they can fit more beer into their tummies before returning to their offices to make sound decisions about the global economy.

The Jamaica Wine House, St Michael's Alley, London EC3 (0171-626 9496)

CITY BOYS AT PLAY

Balls Brothers

6-8 Cheapside, EC2 (0171-248 2708)

Not a description of the clientele, but part of a chain of hearty wine bars with extensive wine and beer lists, and chappish, meaty sandwiches.

City Page

2a Suffolk Lane, Cannon St, EC4 (0171-626 0996)

Younger brother of the toffs' Page pubs in Chelsea, this is rather modern and comfortable for a city bar. Stripped brick, tasteful lighting and imaginative lunchtime food.

Foxtrot Oscar

16 Byward St, EC3 (0171-481 2700)

Another cousin of a Chelsea haunt, this is an obdurately hearty place where the only thing that stops the braying is mouths full of pies, mash and fishcakes.

Reardons

107-112 Leadenhall St, EC3 (0171-626 7226)

Harrassed females serve unmemorable meals-in-a-basket to yelling Lloyds workers between gulps of ale and bursts of boasting.

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