I work in Clerkenwell which seems to be just one big restaurant in itself, and so is ideally suited to this kind of dining. I sit in my office looking out, mentally table-hopping from one to another. The Eagle (159 Farringdon Road, London EC1, 0171 837 1353) is fab value. It was one of the first "recession chic" pub conversions, and serves huge bowls of pork belly and lamb shank, as well as really good beers and wines. The atmosphere is loud, but then that seems to be a local characteristic. The Quality Chop House across the road (0171 837 5093) is run by Charles Fontaine. He's Swiss, therefore there's this perfect execution of dishes. You always know how the food will taste, look and smell. And when I want rich and sumptuous, I go to Maison Novelli (29 Clerkenwell Green, London EC1, 0171 251 6606), and have their speciality, pigs' trotters. Novelli does a "pig's trotter of the day"; served with celeriac mash, it's just to die for.
Surroundings are important, though restaurants don't have to be highly architectural to be the best space to eat in. There's a trend towards big, noisy, echoey - modern restaurants run the risk of being too samey, with not enough discretion to make them interesting. You end up feeling as if you're in a canteen or on a dealing floor. Often softer, more seductive surroundings make for a better experience. Club Gascon (57 West Smithfield, London EC1, 0171 796 0600) is one such. It's small, with marble walls, silver-leafed ceiling and leather floors. It's all totally lush and perfectly matches the food - south-west French, wonderfully rich things like fois gras.