From AbFab to Lab Fab

Out with the indulgent old bourgeoisie - in with, um, the Islington set. Grabbing a table at Granita and drizzling the ciabatta is only half the story
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The Independent Online
It used to be an AbFab world of Bollinger, bad behaviour and bawdiness. Now we have New Labour, New Style - otherwise known as LabFab. It's a quieter, more decorous, more scrubbed-pine sort of a world.

It's a world that starts with ... a move to Islington.

A house next to the Blairs in Richmond Crescent costs around pounds 350,000 and comes complete with ready-fitted celeb neighbours such as Clive Anderson and Stephen Fry. For pounds 300,000, you can buy a similar Georgian number in nearby Northfields Terrace. Trendy estate agents are Hotblack Desiato (314 Upper St, 0171-226 0160), who inspired LabFab-type Douglas Adams to use their name for a rock singer in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. For a mere pounds 237,500, you can buy a penthouse apartment opposite Essex Road BR station (Dizzy Heights: 0171-359 5259).

Don't bother equipping your LabFab home with antiques - anything really good would be ruined by the kids. Look instead for witty accessories from After Noah (121 Upper St), like a plastic vase that you stick on to the window. And for all those necessary ties, try storing them in old chemists' drawers from Number Nineteen, Camden Passage (0171-226 1991).

Have lots of parties and invite Salman Rushdie, Dr Jonathan Miller, John Birt and Melvyn Bragg, Kathy Lette and any architect. Or just drop their names in dinner-party conversation. Judging by her book, the conversation of PR-turned-guru Lynne Franks, who inspired the character of AbFab's Edina, is littered with famous names and New Age therapies.

Sit around a large, friendly antique fruitwood kitchen table, purchased for pounds 750, also from After Noah.

Mix style with a social conscience. Wear Swatches, not Rolexes. Don't wear expensive necklaces because ostentatious wealth encourages envy, social division and muggers. Fun jewellery is fine. Cherie has been seen wearing a brooch that looks like a bug has settled on her lapel with matching baby beetles on her ears, bought from Steinberg and Tolkein (193 King's Road, 0171-376 3660).

Drive a people carrier. It will prove you are caring. Instead of spending pounds 29,000 on a Range Rover, spend the same amount on an unpretentious Ford Galaxy.

Chips are out; ciabatta is in. LabFab don't cook in fat; they drizzle with olive oil. Take any combination of sundried tomatoes, walnut bread and obscure, bitter salad leaves. The River Cafe Cookbook is the LabFab food bible.

Send out for upmarket takeaways: marinated chargrilled vegetables or guinea fowl at about pounds 3.50 a head from Limoncello, the right-on takeaway deli at 402 St John's Street, ECl (0171-713 1678). Otherwise, try an old local corner shop - Olga's Stores of 30 Pentonville Street (0171-837 5467), or muffins from the Canadian Muffin Company at 13 Islington High Street (017l-833 5004). Basic food shopping can be done on Sundays from Waitrose in Holloway Road, conveniently close to the Blairs' Catholic church - St Joan of Arc. Here, after mass, LabFabs load their people carriers with vegetable crisps and Antonio Carluccio's squid ink pasta at pounds 3.35 a packet (dried pasta is trendier than fresh again).

Alcohol is treated with respect. Wine must be good (never chardonnay). Beer is Rolling Rock (despite the penchant for it by the new Minister for Sport, Tony Bank). Water is San Pelligrino. Tea is either Indian, known jocularly as "workers", or herbal. Coffee is Lavazza.

Eat out a lot, but only where you're great pals with the restaurant owner. lslington people favour Clerkenwell. Stephen Bull's brasserie in St John's Street (0171-490 1750) serves seared swordfish and has tables on so many different levels, darling. Tony prefers suppers of sun-dried tomatoes or monkfish on a bed of humous at minimalist Islington restaurant Granita (127 Upper Street, 0171-226 3222). Cherie had her birthday party at Frederick's (Camden Passage, 0171-359 2888) whose menu includes a Blair special called crispy red mullet salad with aubergine caviare (pounds l4).

Flowers: LabFab people like blooms all of a single type by Paula Pryke, the former teacher who shot to fame doing Terence Conran's flowers in style restaurant Quaglino's. A dozen red roses with foliage cost pounds 50 including Downing Street delivery. 20 Penton Street, N1 (0171-837 7336).

You're allowed to be fascinated by fashion. Cherie has already augmented her 50 pairs of shoes by ordering two pairs of Winter boots from Emma Hope's Shoes, (33 Amwell Street, EC1 - 0171-833 2367). She has ordered 2 1/2 inch-heel Vamp Boots, with a zip, at pounds 229 and a second lower-heeled pair. Handbags are plain black and brown leather - one of each colour at pounds 299 each.

Wear made-to-measure Savile Row suits if a man. Unlike linen jackets, they stand up well to car journeys and flights. Off duty, wear chinos and an open top shirt. On duty, wear a white shirt. It symbolises leadership.

If a woman, don't wear suits. Wear things that look like suits and call them "tailored separates", which sounds less Chanel and more M&S. Cherie buys the ready-to-wear collection of LabFab stalwart Ronit Zilkha, who made the pounds 450 rose-coloured suit she wore to the Palace on the morning after the election. 70 Hampstead High Street, NW3, mail order possible (0l71-431 0253).

Leave big hair to Hezza and hats to Tory ladies. Go for short, slick styles by Louise at Sessions, 5 Theberton Street, Islington (0171-704 9777), who will also lacquer your toe-nails for those all-important early- morning doorstep encounters with the paparazzi. For serious makeovers, try the salon of hair colouring whizz Jo Hansford (Mount Street, Mayfair, 0171-495 7774).

LabFlab is out. Cherie lost weight discreetly after facing the cameras' unforgiving eyes. She visits a gym three times a week and has a personal trainer, nanny and cleaner, but they're never in photo range. Try Sequin Park, 240 Upper St, N1. 0171-704 9844. Membership: pounds 350.

Any problems? Try The Life Centre, 15 Edge Street, W8 (0171-221 4602).or buy lots of aromatherapy stress cures in blue bottles from the Neal's Yard Natural Remedies (68 Chalk Farm Road, NW1, 017l-284 2039).

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