Your usual table? Who eats where

MAX CLIFFORD IMAGE-MAKER
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The Independent Culture
I'M A CREATURE of habit who likes variation, although that might sound like a contradiction. Thursdays are always fish-and-chip nights for my family, but on Fridays and Saturdays it's different restaurants. I love the indulgence of eating out, and having a wide choice of food. My tastes vary, so I like to be able to tailor food to my mood. Pacific Spice (42 Northampton Road, London EC1, 0171 278 9983) is one of my favourite places. The flavours are as subtle or as spicy as you want them to be, but they are never overbearing. I like to be seduced by a flavour, not have it blow my head off.

The restaurant is run by a woman called Mei-Li Tan, who set up a chain of restaurants called Silks and Spices six years ago. Pacific Spice is the latest, and they just keep getting better and better. My favourite dish has to be the Fillet of Beef with Shiitake Mushrooms, spicy sauce and crispy seaweed.

Apart from good food, a restaurant has to have an individual quality, real character and sincerity. Some are so patronising and sickly to people who are well-known, and then rude about them behind their backs. I've seen enough of that. I know there has to be showbiz, but I much prefer reality. It sounds strange for an image-maker to say, but I like people to be themselves. Mei-Li is a young person who's taken a gamble, worked hard and studies her customers. Everything is done with genuine enthusiasm.

Another favourite refuge of mine is La Meridiana (East Horsley, 01483 284343), an Italian restaurant near my home in Surrey. Again, it's run by a great character, Tony, who is friendly and not over the top. I get the impression he's always genuinely pleased to see everyone. There are never any people from the entertainment world there and it's very low- key. I love what I do, but I also like to relax and get away at the end of the day. Here I can have Liver with Onions and a hint of garlic or Chateaubriande with Bernaise Sauce and enjoy the beautiful setting.

Good company is essential in eating out. Again, my ideal dining companion depends on my mood. The other essentials are quality and quantity of food. I'm a natural pig and help everyone else out with their meals, as well as eating my own. I'd like to say I'm a gourmet, but no - I think I just love eating.

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