URBAN ALTERNATIVES

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The Independent Culture
If the anonimity of the metropolis is more your style than country cottage intimacy, New World ,1 Gerrard Place,London W1 (0171 734 0396) can accomodate 700 people for dim sum, but on three floors so the scale doesn't entirely overwhelm. It's n ot restful but the cheap stodge - three or four portions of flurry steamed dumplings, starchy turnip cake and so on for well under pounds 10 washed down with green tea - will slow you down for the afternoon. In the evening there's a large a la carte me nu of Cantonese dishes. Dim sum served lunch daily 11am-6pm, dinner served until 11.45pm.

Sir Terence Conran's Quaglino's 16,Bury Street, SW1 (0171 930 6767) represents eating out as theatre on a grand scale. Everyone makes an entrance down a stately staircase into a dining room that stretches into the distance with the crustacea bar atthe far end like an altar. The menu ranges over a restaurantified world of peasant cooking, and the standard is more than competent; grilled vegetables with polenta; cod and chips; confit of duck with rocket. All cheaper than the fruits de mer at pounds 45 for two. Top of the summer puds is white chocolate and raspberry torte. A 15 per cent service charge is automatically added to the bill. Seats 350 but still you have to book well in advance to join the flashy throng. Around pounds 35 for three courses with half a bottle of wine.Three-course lunch and pre-theatre meal (until 6.30pm) pounds 13.50 Open daily 12-11.30pm lunch 12-3pm, dinner 5.30-11.30pm.

Belgo Centraal 50 Earlham Street SW2 (0171 813 2233) is an immense cellar turned into Belgian eating halls . Fainthearts beware and leave your cardies at home, the two dining areas ( one bookable, the other not) are barely air conditioned , noisy and fur nished high tech style. Great bowls of mussels, excellent chips and Belgian beer are the order of the day, or there are wild boar sausages with stoemp (belgian for bubble and squeak) and wild rabbit braised in cherry beer for the more adventurous.Basi cs are well done for the price - around pounds 15-20 for two with couple of beers, or go for one of the pounds 5 or pounds 10 bargain meal deals. Open daily 12-11.30pm, lunch 12-3pm, dinner 5-11.30pm

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