THE 50 BEST PLACES TO EAT AL FRESCO

Each week in The Information, your essential entertainment guide to the next seven days, we invite an expert panel to share with us the fruits of their knowledge. This week, our foodie panellists reveal their favourite places to eat and drink outdoors, from hidden courtyards to country pubs. Nikki Spencer listens in
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The Independent Culture
THE PANEL: Henrietta Green is the author of the award-winning Food Lovers' Guide to Britain, and is organising a Food Lovers' Fair in London this autumn. Gordon Ramsay has now parted company from Aubergine, and is about to open his own restaurant, called Gordon Ramsay, in Royal Hospital Road, London SW3. Caroline Stacey is Time Out's restaurant critic and also writes for The Independent. Jean-Christophe Novelli now has four restaurants in London, as well as one in Normandy and one in South Africa. Orlando Murrin is the editor of BBC Good Food magazine. Paul Heathcote, chef and restaurateur, has just brought out his latest book, Rhubarb and Black Pudding (4th Estate). Oliver Peyton is the man behind The Atlantic Bar and Grill, Coast and Mash in London, and Mash and Air in Manchester. Our thanks to them all.

NEXT WEEK: OUR PANEL UNCOVERS THE 50 BEST BANK-HOLIDAY WEEKENDS.

READERS WHO WISH TO SUGGEST THEIR OWN 50 BEST IDEAS CAN WRITE TO: THE 50 BEST, THE INFORMATION, THE INDEPENDENT, LONDON E14 5DL.

1

WHITSTABLE OYSTER FISHERY Co

This handsome fish restaurant, which is in the original Victorian oyster store right on the seafront, is a clear favourite with Henrietta Green and Caroline Stacey. "In summer they put tables right on the beach, so you can hear the sea lapping against the shore as you eat." says Henrietta. "It has lovely simple fresh fish and shellfish," adds Caroline, "not cheap, but not funny prices either."

Where: Royal Native Oyster Stores, the Horsebridge, Whitstable, Kent (01227-276856).

When: Mon-Sat lunch & dinner; Sun lunch only.

How much: 3 courses with coffee about pounds 30 a head; half portions available for children.

2

HOTEL TRESANTON, Cornwall

"I'll be hung, drawn and quartered if I don't put this at the top of my list," says Oliver Peyton of this famous old hotel, recently the subject of a much-talked-about revamp overseen by Olga Polizzi, his fiancee's mother. Family ties aside, Oliver says he loves the views across Falmouth Harbour from the terrace. The chef is Richard Turner, who helped set up London's trendy Pharmacy - and waiting lists are shorter than Rick Stein's.

Where: Lower Castle Road, St Mawes, Cornwall (01326-270055).

When: lunch, afternoon tea, dinner every day

How much: 3 courses pounds 30 (pounds 20 for residents).

3

JASON'S, W9

This Mauritian restaurant right on Little Venice is a great place in summer, according to Caroline Stacey: "You can book tables on the canalside terrace, and there are often colourful barges moored right in front of you." Jason's majors in seafood, but also offers meat and vegetarian dishes. "The food is fantastic," adds Caroline, "exotic fish with wonderful sauces."

Where: opposite No 60 Blomfield Rd, Little Venice, London W9 (0171-286 6752).

When: lunch every day; dinner Mon-Sat.

How much: set lunch from pounds 10; dinner about pounds 40.

4

ANGEL INN, Hetton

According to Paul Heathcote, this pub - five miles north of Skipton - does what every good pub should: "It has fabulous food, tremendous wines and good beers, too. It is my favourite place to eat outside." The Angel is in the centre of an idyllic village, and there are wonderful views from the 13 outside tables (no booking). You can eat either from the bar- brasserie or more formal restaurant menu.

Where: Hetton, North Yorkshire (01756-730263).

When: lunch and dinner every day.

How much: (bar) main courses pounds 7-pounds 10; (restaurant) 4-course dinner pounds 29.50; Sun lunch pounds 19.50.

5

GEORGE HOTEL, Isle of Wight

This restored governor's house dates from the 17th century, and is a favourite of Jean-Christophe Novelli, who says he loves to swim from the pebble beach at the bottom of the garden. The 17 outside tables are attached to the brasserie (there is also a more formal restaurant) and offer superb views over the Solent. Typical dishes include pan-fried trout with tomato salsa, and wild-mushroom tart with poached egg and hollandaise.

Where: Quay Street, Yarmouth (01983-760331).

When: terrace open lunchtimes only.

How much: starters from pounds 5, mains from pounds 10.

6

FIFTH FLOOR, SW1

Harvey Nichols may not immediately strike you as the place to head for al fresco dining but Orlando Murrin says the Fifth Floor Cafe is great in summer, if you can get one of the 10 precious tables on the terrace. "The food is always good, the service is good-looking - and you are surrounded by elegant people." There's only one drawback: "The thing that really would make it perfect," says Orlando, " is if they banned mobile phones!"

Where: Knightsbridge, London SW1 (0171-823 1839).

When: 10am-10.30pm Mon-Sat; 12-6pm Sun.

How much: a current special offer promises for 3 courses plus half a bottle of wine for pounds 20.

7

PUNCH BOWL INN, Cumbria

This pub restaurant has a small, pretty terrace (no booking outside), and is recommended by both Paul Heathcote and Gordon Ramsay. The village is described by Paul as a "two dogs, a man and a pub kind of place miles from anything". The Punch Bowl is run by Steven Doherty, who worked with Albert Roux at Le Gavroche. "He cooks the more basic Gavroche food, but at pub prices," says Paul. "Fantastic food," agrees Gordon. Not surprisingly it gets very busy.

Where: Crosthwaite, near Kendal (01539-568237).

When: lunch and dinner every day.

How much: about pounds 20 for 3 courses.

8

LE PONT DE LA TOUR, SE1

Henrietta Green recommends this popular Conran restaurant "because on a warm summer evening on the terrace looking at Tower Bridge and the illuminated river has to be one of the best views in London." The food, she says, "is not startling, but the location and the view compensate for any shortfalls." You can request one of the 20 or so outside tables when you book.

Where: Shad Thames, Butler's Wharf, London SE1 (0171-403 8403).

When: lunch Mon-Fri & Sun; dinner every day.

How much: 3 courses with wine pounds 50-pounds 60.

9 MIRABELLE, W1

Marco Pierre White recently gave this old Mayfair restaurant a facelift that included creating a large terrace surrounded with lavender and covered with vines. Jean-Christophe Novelli says it reminds him of the south of France, "especially when the smell of fresh-grown herbs hits the nostrils in the early evening." Gordon Ramsay recently enjoyed a wonderful lunch of gazpacho and grilled skate here: "It is hard to believe you are in Mayfair," he says.

Where: 56 Curzon Street, London W1 (0171-499 4636).

When: lunch & dinner daily, plus brunch Sat & Sun.

How much: set lunch pounds 17.95; dinner from pounds 30 a head.

10

OSHOBASHO, N10

This is the best of the London park cafes, according to Caroline Stacey, who loves "the nice independent vibe" in this old cricket pavilion. "It is so much better than those mass-catering companies, and more in keeping with the spirit of the woods," she says. The menu is mainly pasta, salads and things in pitta bread. The 150 seats outside are particularly popular with new parents: "It is so right-on, breast-feeding is de rigueur," says Caroline.

Where: Highgate Wood, Muswell Hill Road, London N10 (0181-444 1505).

When: Tues-Sun 8.30am to half an hour before dusk.

How much: main courses pounds 3.95-pounds 6.50.

11

KINFAUNS CASTLE, near Perth

This gothic-style castle, built in the 1820s, was opened as a 16-bedroom hotel and restaurant last year, and Gordon Ramsay is a particular fan. He is friends with the owners, and shipped his team from Aubergine up here last summer to put on a banquet. "It is just lovely, with beautiful gardens that back onto a gorgeous big pond," he says. You can't actually dine in the garden, but residents and non-residents can sit out on the terrace for a filling afternoon tea (pounds 9.50) of smoked-salmon sandwiches, cakes and scones.

Where: near Perth, Scotland (01738-620777).

When: breakfast, lunch, dinner & afternoon tea (3-5pm) every day.

How much: 3-course lunch (pounds 18.50), 5-course dinner (pounds 35), afternoon tea (pounds 9.50).

12

FAT DUCK, Bray

"As well as chef Heston Blumenthal's excellent food and service - and the fact that it's only 45 minutes outside London - what I relish most about the Fat Duck is that it brings some peace and tranquility to my otherwise hectic schedule," says Jean-Christophe Novelli. The restaurant has six or eight tables on a terrace overlooking a rustic garden. You can have lunch outside (the terrace is only open for drinks and coffee in the evening), though you'll need to book - especially at weekends.

Where: 1 High Street, Bray, Berks (01628-580333).

When: Tues-Sat lunch & dinner; Sun lunch only.

How much: set lunch pounds 19.50, a la carte about pounds 50 a head with wine.

13

WHITE HORSE, Woolstone

This restored 16th-century pub is called after the ancient hill carving that also gave its name to the surrounding area, the Vale of the White Horse. It's a favourite haunt of Orlando Murrin, who reckons it is "simply a really great pub". They have tables at the front and in a pretty garden at the rear, where you can eat pub grub or posher food from the restaurant menu. You can book tables inside, but not outside due to the vagaries of the weather. The "landlady's special" is a suggestive arrangement of Yorkshire pudding, sausage, mashed potato and onion gravy - enough for two, says Orlando.

Where: Woolstone, near Faringdon, Oxfordshire (01367-820726).

When: lunch & dinner every day.

How much: (bar) main dishes around pounds 5.95; (restaurant) three-course set menu pounds 16.95.

14

THE AMERICAN BAR, at The Stafford Hotel, SW1

Paul Heathcote describes this small courtyard at the end of a cul de sac as "the hidden secret of London". "I love to go to The Stafford for a glass of champagne and maybe a bite to eat," he says. "It is really peaceful, and you wouldn't know you were in the centre of town." There are around a dozen tables in the courtyard, and typical dishes include hot tiger prawns in filo pastry with sweet chilli dip, and chargrilled chicken tikka served in a baguette. The bar itself has a comfortable, clubby feel.

Where: 16-18 St James's Place, London SW1 (0171-518 1253).

When: lunch & dinner every day.

How much: St James's prices.

15

LEAPING HARE CAFE, Stanton

Henrietta Green says the Leaping Hare is "the place you want to spend the rest of your life. You can sit outside and look out over fields and listen to the sheep baa-ing and the cows moo-ing." She describes the food - which is slightly Californian but uses local ingredients - as "truly scrumptious". The owners Kenneth and Carla Carlisle also have their own vineyard, and serve their own wine in the cafe (and sell it in their shop, which Henrietta says is "full of things you want to buy").

Where: Wyken Hall, Stanton, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (01359-250287).

When: Thurs-Sun 10am-5.30pm; also 7-9pm Fri & Sat.

How much: tea & cake costs about pounds 3; dinner is about pounds 20 a head including wine.

16

THE OXO TOWER, SE1

"The views are fantastic from the top of the Oxo Tower, and the food is good too," says Gordon Ramsay, who adds that his favourite time to come is on a summer's evening, "when you can tuck into something light and simple, like a salad Nicoise". You can sit outside at both the restaurant (modern British, slightly more luxurious) or the brasserie (more international, slightly less expensive). This is a popular, fashionable place, and it is advisable to book. Though you won't be guaranteed a table outside, you can usually wait a while for one.

Where: Barge House St, London SE1 (0171-803 3888).

When: brasserie: lunch & dinner every day; restaurant: lunch Mon-Fri & Sun, dinner every day.

How much: dinner around pounds 60 a head with wine in the restaurant, about pounds 45 in the brasserie.

17

THE CROWN, N1

"It's a pub that has gone foodie," says Caroline Stacey, who likes to come here at lunchtime or on a balmy evening. "There are lovely houses opposite, and you can sit out at the front of the pub and fantasise about living in one of them!" she adds. The food is good and very modern - a long way from pie and ploughman's. Typical main courses include a sensational pan-fried skate-wing with zuccini frites and caper and lemon butter sauce.

Where: 116 Cloudesley Rd, Islington, London N1 (0171-837 7107).

When: lunch every day, dinner Mon-Sat.

How much: starters pounds 3-pounds 5, main courses pounds 6.50-pounds 9.50.

18

LEATHERNE BOTTEL, Goring

This restaurant, right on the bank of the Thames, is a favourite with Oliver Peyton. It is essential to book at weekends when the weather is nice "as London heads for Goring". "The Thames is greatly underused," he says, "and here it is perfect for al fresco eating." The LB can seat about 70 on the terrace overlooking the river meadows, and a further 50 inside. The summer menu is mainly fish and salads flavoured with homegrown herbs and oils. In winter the emphasis is more on game.

Where: Goring-on-Thames, Berkshire (01491-872667)

When: lunch every day, dinner Mon-Sat

How much: set dinner (Mon-Thurs) pounds 19.50 for 3 courses, a la carte about pounds 50 per head with wine.

19

CROWBAR COFFEE, N1 & EC1

"Post-modern" is how Caroline Stacey describes the two Crowbar coffee shops, now key meeting-places for London's loft-dwelling set (another is due to open in Charlotte Street in September). In summer, their unusual gardens are a draw. "They don't have unruly natural plants," says Caroline, who describes the "garden" at the Exmouth Market branch as "more like a squash court with orange cubes, which are the tables". At St John Street they have decking and some rather extraordinary plants. A pleasantly fashionable place to fill up.

Where: 406 St John St, London N1 (0171-833 4975) and 55 Exmouth Market, EC1 (0171-833 4725).

When: St John St 8am-8pm Mon-Sat, 9am-8pm Sun; Exmouth Market 8am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Sat.

How much: pounds 5 should do it.

20

WALNUT TREE, Abergavenny

"The food here is fantastic," says Oliver Peyton, who rates Franco Taruschio's famous restaurant in the Monmouthshire hills as highly as ever. You can eat alfresco at the front of the restaurant, looking out over glorious countryside. Tables here can't be booked, so it's on a first- come first-served basis (although tables in the more formal restaurant can, and should, be reserved well in advance). Outside, you can order from the bistro menu, which is exactly the same as the restaurant menu, except there is no cover charge.

Where: Landewi Skirrid, nr Abergavenny, Monmouthshire (01873-852797).

When: Tues-Sat lunch & dinner.

How much: starters pounds 4.50-pounds 7.50, mains pounds 12- pounds 18.

21

192, W11

"I just adore 192," says local resident Henrietta Green. "I love sitting outside at lunchtime, watching people pass by and having a gossip." Oliver Peyton is another fan, as of course is Bridget Jones. 192 has four tables on the pavement itself, and another five right at the front of the restaurant, where, when the full-length windows are open, it is like being outside. Many culinary reputations have taken off in the kitchen here. Typical dishes include seared scallops with braised black beans and tomato salsa, and calf's liver with potato gratin.

Where: 192 Kensington Park Road, London W11 (0171-229 0482).

When: lunch & dinner every day.

How much: about pounds 30 a head with wine.

22

BELAIR HOUSE, SE21

This Georgian Grade II listed house set in Belair Park in Dulwich is great for outdoor eating, according to Caroline Stacey. Both the bar and restaurant have tables on the terrace, so you can either have drinks and bar snacks or a full three-course meal overlooking the park. "There's a lovely garden with a stream running along the bottom," recalls Caroline. The only drawback is the outdoor furniture: "It's made of the kind of material that, if you wear a miniskirt when it's a bit hot, you find yourself sticking to it!"

Where: Gallery Road, London SE21 (0181-299 9788).

When: lunch & dinner every day.

How much: set 3-course lunch: Mon-Sat pounds 15.50, Sun pounds 24.95; set dinner: Mon-Thurs & Sun pounds 24.95. 23 THE GOOSE, nr Watlington

"Posh pub grub from Prince Charles's ex-chef" is how Orlando Murrin describes this pub/restaurant about 15 minutes from Henley. There are a number of tables outside, which can be booked, and the west-facing garden is wonderful in the early-evening sunlig ht - "a very attractive setting," says Orlando. It's more restaurant than pub, and the emphasis is on organic foods and seasonal vegetables. Typical dishes include calf's liver with rosti and shallots and roast mulled chicken with Thai curry sauce and ba smati rice. Where: Britwell Salome, Near Watlington, Oxfordshire (01491-612304). When: Tues-Sun lunch & dinner. How much: daily-changing set menu (dinner & Sunday lunch) pounds 18 for 2 courses. 24 LE POUSSIN, Brockenhurst

Jean-Christophe Novelli is a fan of this small Michelin-starred restaurant in a pretty town in an even-prettier corner of the New Forest. There are a few tables outside in the courtyard, and more in the conservatory, where the huge doors are opened on ni ce days. "It's so beautiful and tranquil in the New Forest, and the chefs here are wizards with dishes of locally picked wild mushrooms." You can book tables outside, and it is usually those in the conservatory that get booked up first, as people hedge t heir bets about the weather. Where: The Courtyard, Brookley Rd, Brockenhurst, Hampshire (01590-623063). When: Wed-Sun lunch & dinner. How much: set menu pounds 22.50. 25 VINGT QUATRE, SW10

This popular all-night cafe - which has undergone a revamp since the days when it was known as the Up All Night - is nominated by Gordon Ramsay: "It's a great place to relax on a summer's evening after work." Vingt Quatre only has a couple of tableson t he pavement, but on warm days they open up the French doors at the front. Gordon is a fan of the all-day breakfasts and the Kings club sandwich. Where: 325 Fulham Road, London SW10 (0171-376 7224). When: all day, all night, seven days a week - though Gordon's tip is to avoid Friday and Saturday nights, when it gets too crowded with late-night revellers. How much: all-day breakfasts pounds 4.75 & pounds 6.75, Kings club sandwich pounds 6.75. 26 FREDERICK'S, N1

"It's quite Cityish, and there are a lot of men in suits, but it has a very nice garden and does good-value lunches," says Caroline Stacey of this old haunt of Tony Blair and the Islington smart set. Everything about Frederick's is very well-tended:"Par t of the garden has been Astroturfed, and there isn't a petal out of place," says Caroline, "but it's still pretty." Outside, there is seating for about 40 people, and booking is recommended, although the management say they can't guarantee tables outsid e as the weather so changeable. Where: Camden Passage, London N1 (0171-359 2888). When: Mon-Sat lunch & dinner You can also have drinks in the garden throughout the day. How much: set lunch pounds 10; a la carte about pounds 30 a head. 27 RASCASSE, Leeds

This Michelin-starred restaurant is another favourite of Paul Heathcote's. "Chef Simon Gueller cooks very good food, and it is in a lovely setting, in a converted granary building next to the Leeds-Liverpool canal," he says. You have to ask if you want a table to be set up outside, but it's well worth it as you can sit right down by the canal and look at the colourful narrowboats while you eat. The superb food has a modern British/ French flavour, with dishes such as roast sea bass with confit of tomatoes. Where: Canal Wharf, Water Lane, Leeds (0113-2446611 ) When: Mon-Sat lunch & dinner. How much: lunch about pounds 25; dinner about pounds 35. 28 MOMO, W1

"You come here for the atmosphere more than the food," says Oliver Peyton of this hugely fashionable north-African bar and restaurant, run by the irrepressible Momo. That said, the cooking isn't bad, and if you're unfamiliar with this newly hip cuisine t his is a great place to try pigeon pastilla, a sweet and spicy pie, or tangy chermoula sardines. Puddings include a deliciously refreshing salad of oranges sprinkled with cinnamon and orange-blossom water. There are about seven tables outside (no booking s) - fantastic for watching the fashion mafia at play. Where: 25 Heddon Street, London W1 (0171-434 4040). When: lunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily, brunch Sat & Sun. How much: starters about pounds 5, main courses pounds 11-pounds 16. 29 the boathouse, Stratford-upon-Avon

Gordon Ramsay has fond memories of this restaurant, as he grew up in the area. He also likes the fact that "it is hidden away so it hasn't yet been found by hordes of American tourists." There is seating for 34 on the balcony; not strictly outdoors as th e roof doesn't open up, but the sides do: "as al fresco as you need in the UK," according to the manager. Below is a working boathouse, so you can go for a punt after lunch. Where: Swan's Nest Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon (01789-297733). When: lunch Tues-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat. How much: set lunch pounds 14.95, 3 courses a la carte pounds 20-30. 30 red lion, Staffordshire

"We tend to be derogatory about pub food, but this is traditional pub food done very well," says Paul Heathcote of this family-orientated pub in the Black Country, about 7 miles outside Wolverhampton. "It's one of those pubs with quirky collections of ev erything," says Paul. The gardens can seat about 150 on a variety of different patios. Where: Six Ashes Road, Bobbington (01384-221237). When: barbecues Fri, Sat & Sun from 6.30pm; restaurant & bar lunch & dinner every day. How much: 3 courses a la carte around pounds 20-30; Sunday set lunch pounds 9.red lion, Staffordshire

"We tend to be derogatory about pub food, but this is traditional pub food done very well," says Paul Heathcote of this family-orientated pub in the Black Country, about 7 miles outside Wolverhampton. "It's one of those pubs with quirky collections of ev erything," says Paul. The gardens can seat about 150 on a variety of different patios. Where: Six Ashes Road, Bobbington (01384-221237). When: barbecues Fri, Sat & Sun from 6.30pm; restaurant & bar lunch & dinner every day. How much: 3 courses a la carte around pounds 20-30; Sunday set lunch pounds 9. 31 wxd cafe, n4

This cafe in the Stroud Green area has an edible garden (herbs, fig trees, grape vines, hops, etc) designed by the Dan Pearson and the Garden Doctors team from Channel 4. "It is only small, but it is very sweet and child friendly," says Caroline Stacey. There are six tables outside but the whole back of the cafe can also be opened up in nice weather. The menu is Mediterranean, featuring chargrilled swordfish, haloumi fritters with salsa, etc. Where: 2 Ferme Park Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 (0181-292 0516). When: lunch & dinner every day. How much: veggie brunch about pounds 4.50, starters from pounds 3, main courses from pounds 6. 32 reilly's, Fife

Henrietta Green discovered Reilly's when she was researching her Food Lovers' Guide to Britain. It is actually a shop where they sell lobsters and crabs, but if you ask Wilma she will boil up a lobster (you can pick the one you want from a tank), and you can eat it sitting on the benches outside overlooking the harbour. "It is amazingly basic," says Henrietta. "You need to bring your own knife and fork and butter and wine, but then you can have a feast." Where: The Harbour, Shoregate, Crail (01333-450476). When: shop open 10.30am to 4pm every day. How much: according to season. 33 river cafe, W6

Oliver Peyton says: "I love the food, and the staff are great. It's not the greatest vista, but it is still lovely." Paul Heathcote likes the informality. "The last time I ate there it was a wonderful day and very relaxed." There are up to 13 tablesouts ide; if you mention that you would like a table outside when you book, they will do what they can. With the recent TV series, tables are harder than ever to come by, but a new booking system may free things up a bit. Instead of having a long waitinglist you can now only book one calender month in advance. Where: Thames Wharf Studios, Rainville Road, London W6 (0171-381 8824). When: Mon-Sat lunch & dinner; Sun lunch only. How much: 3-course meal about pounds 55 per head including wine. 34 rock and sole plaice, WC2

There has apparently been a fish-and-chip shop on this site since 1873, according to the owners. Caroline Stacey says that this is a good place to eat fish and chips outside, on the picnic tables laid out on the pavement, although "fish and chips is not necessarily what you want to eat on a summer's day". Judging by the crowds here on hot evenings and also at lunchtimes, however, not everyone feels the same way. They serve fish and chips, chicken, pies and salads to eat in or take away. Where: Endell Street, Covent Garden, London WC2 (0171-836 3785) When: every day 11.30am-10.30pm How much: meals from about pounds 5.50. 35 owd nell's tavern, nr Preston

"This is not a place you go for the food but for the whole package," says Paul Heathcote. "It's very much staple food - fish and chips and mushy peas and about eight different kinds of beer," says Paul. "It's great on a Sunday. There is a cricket pitch a nd a bowling green down by the canal, and it feels like a little village," he adds. The Tavern, situated in an extended old farmhouse, is part of a privately-owned leisure complex on the edge of the Lancaster canal, about 7 miles from Preston. Where: St Michaels Rd, Billsborrow (01995-640020). When: everyday from 10.30am until 11pm. How much: pub menu, including fish and chips at pounds 4.75. 36 the belvedere, W8

Henrietta Green says the terrace at the Belvedere is perfect if you are feeling "a bit precious and posey..." "You feel rather rather grand as you look out over the ornamental park and everyone else," she says. The tables on the terrace can be requested but not guaranteed. If you are not feeling flush enough for the restaurant, Henrietta recommends the cafe in the park, where "they do a jolly good spaghetti bolognese". Where: Holland Park, London W8 (0171-602 1238). When: lunch & dinner Mon-Sat. How much: about pounds 25 a head without wine. 37 sir charles napier, nr Chinnor

Caroline Stacey recommends this pub/restaurant "in a fantastic bit of the Chilterns within easy reach of London and Oxford". There is an outdoor terrace with "slightly whacky furniture" that she proclaims infinitely preferable to those ubiquitous picnic tables "where you show your knickers when you get in and out!" Food is British with touches of Italian and Pacific Rim, such as crab cakes with lime and coriander and avocado salsa. You can book tables outside, and it is advisable, especially at weekends . Where: Sprigg's Alley, near Chinnor, Oxfordshire (01494-483011). When: Tues-Sat lunch & dinner; Sun lunch only. How much: set lunch on weekdays pounds 15.50 for 2 courses and coffee. 38 lindisfarne oysters at ross

For a DIY meal, Henrietta Green recommends buying some oysters here and, armed with an oyster cutter, taking a picnic down to Ross beach about a mile away for stunning views of Holy Island, Banburgh Castle and the Farne Islands. "I love oysters," says He nrietta, "and there is something wonderful about eating them looking out at the beds from where they have risen." The family also have holiday cottages to rent if you want to stay in the area. Where: Belford, Northumberland (01668-213228). When: phone beforehand to check someone is in at the farmhouse. How much: oysters 40p each. 39 Cafe montpelliano, SW3

This stylish cafe and restaurant has "great salads, including a fabulous smoked chicken one," according to Orlando Murrin, who says that golden-throated food guru Loyd Grossman is a fellow regular - surely a recommendation in itself. There are a few tables outside. "It can be a a bit trafficky, but it's s till very Knightsbridge," says Orlando. Where: 144 Brompton Road, London SW3 (0171-225 2926). When: 8.30am-11pm Mon-Sat, 9.30am-6pm Sun. How much: salads from about pounds 6, pasta dishes from pounds 5. 40 Heathcote's Brasserie, Preston

Paul Heathcote has no qualms about singling out his own Brasserie as a good place to eat out as it "has a lovely little courtyard at the back". He is particularly proud of his new chef, Jamie Holland, from the Lanesborough and Le Caprice, who is "doing v ery exciting things in the kitchen". The ground-floor bistro has jazz on Thursdays, and a seafood and rotisserie menu. Typical dishes are spit-roasted sandwiches and marinated salmon. Where: 42 Winkley Square, Preston (01772 -252732). When: bistro: daily except Sun; restaurant: Mon-Sat lunch & dinner, Sun lunch only. How much: restaurant pounds 8.50 for 2 courses, pounds 10.50 for 3; bistro 3 courses for pounds 9.95 41 Tregain tea rooms, nr Truro

Known locally as Clare's, after the woman who runs it, this tiny cafe (just 10 tables, including those outside) and restaurant is fully booked most evenings. If you are lucky, you may be able to get one of the two tables at the front of the restaurant, which look over the fishing harbour. Oliver Peyton is a fan of Clare's "lovely wholesome food in beautiful surroundings." Where: Portloe, near Truro, Cornwall (01872-501252). When: 9am-5pm & dinner from 7pm every day. How much: main courses (predominantly fish) from pounds 10, starters from pounds 4.50. 42 William IV, NW10

This big, solid pub in Kensal Rise has a "funky feel," according to Caroline Stacey. "There is a nice walled garden at the back where you eat very good food," she adds. Typical dishes are smoked haddock kedgeree with poached eggs, duck with parsnip, and chorizo mash with olive oil. You can book tables in either the main pub or the garden. Where: 786 Harrow Road, London NW10 (0181-969 5944) When: every day for lunch & dinner. How much: Starters from pounds 3, main courses pounds 5-pounds 10. 43 L'Accento, W2

"This is a nice neighbourly Italian," according to Henrietta Green, who is among the many locals to go weak-knee-ed at the thought of L'Accento's mouthwatering pumpkin ravioli and spicy squid salad. In the summer, the friendly staff put a few tableson t he pavement and also slide back the roof on the conservatory at the back when the weather is nice. "It's a rumbustious sort of place," says Henrietta. Where: 16 Garway Road, London W2 (0171-243 2201). When: Mon-Sat lunch & dinner; Sun dinner only. How much: set menu pounds 11.50; a la carte about pounds 25 for 3 courses. 44 Novelli W8

Jean-Christophe Novelli says he fell in love with this building so much that he bought it! He says that despite being on a busy street in Notting Hill, its pretty garden terrace is perfect for a bottle of regional French wine and his favourite dish of st uffed pig's trotters. Where: 122-124 Palace Gardens, London W8 (0171-229 4024). When: Mon-Fri lunch & dinner, Sat dinner only. How much: 3-course meal about pounds 37 a head, including wine. 45 Alistair Little, w11

"A nice relaxed and friendly place" is how Oliver Peyton describes Alistair Little's second restaurant (he has another in Frith Street). A Notting Hill favourite, this branch has a couple of tables outside and you can book them. Little's cooking is legendary, so booking is a must. The menu changes constantly - he is nothing if not inventive - but typical dishes might include grilled fillet of sea bass and wild garlic omelette. Where: Lancaster Road, I36A Lancaster Road, London W11 (0171-243 2220). When: Mon-Sat lunch & dinner. How much: dinner: 3 courses pounds 27.50; lunch: starters from pounds 5, main courses from pounds 8. 46 Bluebird Cafe, SW3

Gordon Ramsay enjoys eating on the terrace near the flower stalls and vegetable market at Conran's foodie venture in Chelsea. "It is set back from the road and it smells gorgeous," says Gordon, who likes to tuck into crusty sandwiches here. You can't boo k tables, and at busy times like Saturday lunchtime you will probably have to queue. You can sample croissants and coffee or something more substantial such as fish cakes and wood-roasted salads. Where: Bluebird Gastrodome, 350 Kings Road, London SW3 (0171-559 1000). When: Mon-Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 12noon-6pm. How much: specials from pounds 5, salads from pounds 6. 47 Barca, Manchester

This popular bar and restaurant, part-owned by local boy Mick Hucknell, from Simply Red, and his management company, is great on a summer's day or evening, according to Paul Heathcote. You can have bar snacks downstairs in the courtyard in this popular r edeveloped area of town, or eat on the balcony overlooking the canal; seven out of 10 dishes are fish. Tables here can't be reserved; they're on a first-come first-served basis. Where: Arches 8-9, Castlefield, Manchester M3 (0161-839 7099). When: restaurant: open daily from 12noon for lunch & dinner; bar daily from 11am. How much: lunch about pounds 15 a head; dinner about pounds 25. 48 Mark Addy, Manchester

This is another popular place to eat outside in Manchester, especially if you are very hungry, according to Paul Heathcote. This pub on the River Irwell, not far from Manchester city centre, is often packed with office workers, who tuck into big hunks of bread with copious amounts of cheese at lunchtime. You can book tables outside, and they also cater for group bookings. Where: 3 Stanley Street, Manchester M3 (0161-832 4080). When: Mon-Sat 11.30am-11pm; Sun 12noon-10.30pm. How much: ploughman's lunches from pounds 3.20. 49 Hardy's, W1

"This is a top winebar run by cheerful and efficent Antipodeans, with really fresh, well-cooked foods that are good value too," says Orlando Murrin. There are lots of tables outside on the pavement, which can be booked. Specialities are salmon fish cakes and roast cod with chive m ash and pesto. Where: 53 Dorset Street, London W1 (0171-935 4598). When: 12.30pm-3.30pm & 5.30pm-10.30pm Mon-Fri. How much: average per head pounds 20. 50 Windsor Castle, W8

This pub, draws a young, relaxed local crowd on account of its "lovely garden and good food," according to Oliver Peyton. Excellent home-made sausages and sophisticated variations on pub food - oysters, rabbit pie - are served up in a spacious, tree-shaded courtyard. Where: Campden Hill Road, London W8 (0171-243 9551). When: daily from 12noon. How much: half a dozen oysters cost about pounds 5, sandwiches from about pounds 2.25. !

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