Bites: Off-centre venues

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Belair House, Gallery Road, Dulwich, London SE21 (0181-299 9788). Daily lunch and dinner.

Belair House, Gallery Road, Dulwich, London SE21 (0181-299 9788). Daily lunch and dinner.

A magnificent Palladian mansion overlooking Arcadian parkland ­ just down the road from Brixton ­ Belair is where south-east Londoners go for country-house dining with contemporary panache. For around £30, cooking is accomplished with underlying earthiness: snail and artichoke salad or rabbit and black-pudding terrine with potato and gherkin salad, for example. Sunday lunch, for £24.95, is a family affair. Weekdays it's £14.50-£17.50.

Cucina, 45A South End Road, Hampstead, London NW3 (0171-435 7814). Mon-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch.

A slick-looking, sunny restaurant with a restlessly global menu and a cosmopolitan clientele. Tuna nori rolls, or parmesan-crumbed pork fillet with flageolets and pesto typify the East-to-West range. But isn't boasting about Australian beef going a little far? Prices confirm its role as a service to well-heeled locals rather than somewhere to splash out: £20-£25 without drink, and lunch is £7.95 for one dish.

Juniper, 21 The Downs, Altrincham, Greater Manchester (0161-929 4008). Mon dinner, Tue-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner.

Whether or not Altrincham qualifies as a suburb of Manchester, this is not what you'd call a neighbourhood restaurant, but one of the best in the North-West. The £30 no-choice set menu includes coffee and own-made petits fours; à la carte is little more, and lunch £14-£18. Dishes such as grey-legged partridge with chocolate sauce show technical prowess and meticulous presentation.

Fisherman's Lodge, Jesmond Dene, Newcastle upon Tyne (0191-281 3281). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner.

While still in Newcastle, albeit the most salubrious side, the impression is almost rural. Seafood's the speciality, much of it simply or traditionally cooked ­ grilled halibut with sautéd prawns, or lemon sole Walewska ­ though adventurous ordering is rewarded with seabass, Chinese vegetables and sukiyaki sauce. Main courses approach £20, dinner is around £30; reasonably priced wines redress the balance. Lunch is £17.80.

Red Snapper, 1 Chandos Road, Redland, Bristol (0117 973 7999). Mon dinner, Tue-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch.

This likeable local outclasses most neighbourhood restaurants, with skillfully cooked modern food: venison sausage with pea and elderberry chutney; Glouc- ester Old Spot loin with sherry vinegar and apricot sauce, or grey mullet filet with slow-roast tomatoes and salsa verde, then raspberry crÿme brûlée, all for less than £25 for dinner. Lunch is a snip at half that.