Cafe Society: Come as you wannabe

If your expense account won't stretch to the Oxo Tower Restaurant, why not try the Bistrot 2 Riverside nestled beneath it? Pretty staff, tasty dishes, clean and tidy, with views to die for. Oh, and is that Patsy Kensit over there?

In the midst of Hispano-pidgin-English chatter, Joe has gone thoughtful and started staring at the other tables. It's a Friday night, but the place isn't exactly heaving; new chrome bars south of the river probably need a little time to get going, and the quantity of chrome in Bistrot 2 Riverside suggests that the place, though it's cheaper than the expenses- fuelled Oxo Tower Restaurant above it, is still aiming at aspirant Oxo Tower diners.

Joe leans over to get close to my ear and says "Have you noticed? This is one of those bars that pulls punters who want to be someone else?". "What do you mean?" "Well, look." He flicks a finger at a blonde woman in black at the next-door table. "Her over there. It's a Patsy Kensit." "You reckon? Not a Mariella?" "Patsy, Mariella. Interchangeable. And look..." the finger flicks to the guy two tables down in a black polo-neck sweater. "He wants to be Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, but he's had to settle for Val Kilmer in The Saint".

It's on the whole a youngish crowd: the people who want to be Keef Richards or Gary Glitter are quaffing out of brown-paper bags in the sheltering shadow of Blackfriars Bridge.

Six quid may not get your octopus beyond the vet's front door these days, but it will still buy you a very nice Sea Breeze in the bar at Bistrot 2. Ten will buy you half a dozen oysters and a glass of Guinness, pounds 8.50 a pasta salad and a glass of Chianti.

On the other side of the second floor of Oxo Tower Wharf, the equally chrome-heavy restaurant provides meals from an open-plan kitchen where, mysteriously, the cooking staff seem to have been picked as much for their looks as their way with a hollandaise.

The other night, we managed to run up pounds 60 a head dining here, and we weren't even being particularly extravagant. God knows what you could do upstairs.

Still, what you do get for your six quid is assiduous table service from friendly staff, over-enthusiastic ashtray-emptying from lovely, thin girls in Chinese brocade dresses, and one of London's most magnificent views.

Trust me: get to a window - and the whole riverside wall is made of window - and you'll be gasping as the disco boats roll along the Thames below you, the lights on the Embankment twinkle and the dome of St Paul's rises in ghostly splendour.

Bistrot 2 Riverside, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street SE1 (0171-401 8200)

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