Bites: Messing about near the river

Away from the bustle of the city, London's leafy suburbs offer some fine eateries

Canyon, Towpath, Riverside, Richmond (0181-948 2944). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat, Sun brunch and dinner. An All the Pretty Horses- like tribute to the American south-west, this comes from the same stable as Dakota in Notting Hill, Montana in Fulham, and the just-opened Idaho in Highgate. The location by the Thames at Richmond is as perfect as a John Ford Western; the modern building is light and spacious and incorporates a desert-scape mural. Food is several notches up from Tex-Mex, and so are prices: roast sweetcorn chowder; Chesapeake Bay soft-shell crab; chargrilled Iowa rib-eye come to around pounds 20 to pounds 25 without the requisite margaritas. The brunches are a big deal.

The Depot, Tideway Yard, Mortlake High Street, Mortlake, London SW14 (0181-878 9462). Daily lunch and dinner. Ground floor of a Thames-side Victorian warehouse overlooks the stretch between Barnes and Chiswick Bridge. Undistracting white walls, parquet floor and bare tables, pleasant Antipodean staff and an easy-going menu of modern British staples all make for a likeable brasserie. Grilled sardine with tomato on toast and salsa verde (pounds 3.90); grilled chicken, chickpea pancake, onion marmalade and olive jus (pounds 11.50), blood orange and Campari jelly. Less than pounds 20 for three courses.

Grano, 162 Thames Road, Chiswick, London W4 (0181-995 0120). Mon-Sat dinner, Tue-Fri, Sun lunch. Within its first year, this won the Carlton Award for Best Italian Restaurant, and its clean lines with a touch of rustic mark it out as a long way from a suburban trattoria. Venetian head chef Roberto Neri's judge-seducing menu might include warm salad of langoustine, potatoes and wild rice; trevisana (a variety of lettuce) braised in honey with grilled monkfish and broad beans, rabbit with Savoy cabbage or calf's liver with polenta and artichokes. A tasting menu is pounds 35 for five beautifully balanced courses; otherwise around pounds 30 for three courses without drinks. Sunday lunch is pounds 14.50 to pounds 22.50. It's a good idea to book well ahead at weekends.

Monsieur Max, 133 High Street, Hampton Hill (0181-979 5546). Mon-Fri, Sun lunch and dinner, Sat dinner. Another Carlton Award-winner. Max Renzland's obsessively sourced haute-bourgeois French food and his front-of-house presence create the impression of being in France, despite being deep in suburbia, opposite a petrol station. Brilliance is achieved by doing little to some superb and hard-core ingredients: rillettes of pork and duck; poulet de Bresse roti with morel sauce; creme brulee; rice pudding with Madagascan vanilla, Agen prunes, Cognac caramel. Lunch is pounds 13 to pounds 17.50; dinner pounds 23.50 plus supplements of pounds 3 to pounds 7.

Putney Bridge, The Embankment, Putney, London SW15 (0181-780 1811). Mon-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch. An architectural award-winning building right on the river. Despite the views, dark upholstery and sleek wood make the smoky ground-floor bar oddly gloomy during daylight. A change of management and chef has made the whole thing more serious and the atmosphere rather grand. Upstairs, all restaurant tables afford river views, but as the cooking's grown in stature so have prices: lunch is pounds 19.50 for three courses. Croustillant of red mullet and tomato, asparagus and rouille; rabbit with peas, broad beans and carrots; warm Valrhona chocolate cake with almond milk sorbet should be extremely rewarding, but there's little to cheer vegetarians.

Redmonds, 170 Upper Richmond Road West, Sheen, London SW14 (0181-878 1922). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner, Sun lunch. Redmond Hayward's sunny yellow restaurant brings polish to Sheen. Expect modern classics with freshness and focus as cooking keeps consistently good things coming - from filo of smoked eel with horseradish and parsley creme fraiche, via marinated pigeon with pumpkin polenta, frisee, seared foie gras and balsamic jus, to sable of poached pear and creme fraiche with strawberry sauce. Set-price lunch pounds 12.50 to pounds 21.50, dinner pounds 19.50 to pounds 23.50. Caroline Stacey

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