The Hardens make great play of the fact that theirs is the only guide that rates every establishment listed - but the effect of their rating system is actually to confuse rather than clarify. Since restaurants are graded in comparison with others in the same price bracket, rather than on a common scale, the sumptuous Capital Hotel restaurant ends up with the same marks as a humble Portuguese tapas bar called Casa Santana.
The most endearing feature of Harden's, from the Pod's point of view, is that it carries on its back cover an endorsement from this very newspaper, where the last edition was apparently described as 'portable and concise'.
Its size remains its chief virtue and advantage over the Time Out guide, which at pounds 6.99 is roughly the same price but has more than twice as many entries.
The major innovation in this year's Time Out guide is the Fax-A-Menu service, whereby people with access to a fax machine can see the menus from nearly 150 restaurants before making a reservation.
Details of this service appear on the penultimate page of the book, which can easily be torn out to leave the A-Z index in its rightful and most accessible place, inside the back cover.
The Evening Standard guide, written by Fay Maschler, was launched with a lavish party to which the Gastropod was not invited (but would not have wanted to attend, anyway) and has been relentlessly promoted by the London newspaper. It costs pounds 3 more than its rivals, but lists fewer restaurants than either Time Out (the most comprehensive of the three) or Harden's (the easiest to carry around).
THE ART OF LIVING is the name of the organisation responsible for arranging the series of cookery demonstrations with Sophie Grigson that proved to be so popular with readers of the Independent back in May. Now, to mark the publication of four books collectively called Anna Del Conte's Italian Kitchen, the Art of Living has organised an evening designed to appeal to lovers of Italian food. It will be held in London on 23 November.
Ms Del Conte will be demonstrating recipes from the four books - which cover antipasti, pasta, risotti and dolci, are published by Pavilion and cost pounds 5.99 each - at the Bulthaup kitchen showroom in Wigmore Street, W1, starting at 6.45pm.
There will be an opportunity to taste olive oils from different regions and wine supplied by Wine Cellars - while learning more about traditional Italian cuisine. Tickets, which also include light supper with wine, are ordinarily pounds 29 each, but the Gastropod's esteemed readers can purchase a double ticket for the bargain price of pounds 40 by phoning Caroline Humphreys on 071-727 6542, or sending a cheque to: The Art of Living, PO Box 1961, London W11 2ZT.