Louisa Saunders

Louisa Saunders is associate features editor of The Independent and writes a weekly advice column, The Help Desk, for the Independent on Sunday’s New Review magazine

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places; BAR GANSA

CAMDEN has had it, some people will tell you. It's increasingly just a magnet for suburban Loaded lads trying to look cool, while the truly hip have sought pastures new. But the spirit of Camden somehow endures in places like Bar Gansa, perhaps because it never was painfully trendy. Regulars love to linger over cappuccinos or jars of margarita in the bar, despite the cramped conditions (tables are for diners only). Food is tapas, but has evolved into something quite unique and comes with the added bonus of an agreeably chaotic atmosphere and an impossibly good-looking and well-dressed staff.

PLACES: THE STEELES

Less A pub, more a never-ending party experience. Just up the hill from Chalk Farm, but far enough away from Camden Market territory to be largely Goth-free, the Steeles attracts muzos, some of them quite famous (Noel and Meg are neighbours), assorted wild-child offspring of Hampstead bohos, and occasionally the ageing bohos themselves - all of whom seem to rub along passing well with the odd old Irish geezer who's been propping up the bar since before the Steeles was fashionable. Regulars are very regular indeed, hence the chummy atmosphere, and it's jam-packed by late evening, especially on Sundays, when the most unexpected people get down to foot-stomping jigs rendered by the best Irish session in town. Dress is uninhibited, and low lights, loads of candles and dusty shelves of old books feed the senses if you're feeling amorous. Reasons to go to the Steeles: to wear that microscopic leather thingy you haven't dared put on; to enjoy somewhere groovy but where lots of people are older than you; to remind yourself you could pull if you weren't so choosy.

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