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RUMOURS spread like wildfire. The Fire Station, close to Waterloo Station, which opened six months ago in a blaze of publicity, changed hands last week for an undisclosed sum. Now a reliable contact has fanned the flames, with an educated estimate that the sum was pounds 480,000.

The barn-like bar and restaurant, located on a 'reverse premium' site (offering a rent-free period to attract tenants), was cheaply fitted out with a bar and an open kitchen and furnished from second-hand shops. It had been originally set up for as little as pounds 18,000. First reviewed in these pages by Emily Green in August, it has been applauded for bringing Mediterranean food to the masses; its chief cook, Dan Evans, is a protege of Alastair Little, and the food, though similarly robust and Italianate, costs a fraction of its counterpart in Soho.

Not only does the place serve good grub, but it was also named Bar of the Year by the London Evening Standard. Now it has been acquired by Regent Inns, an outfit that operates about 40 properties in the London area, including the Princess Louise pub in Holborn and Rumours cocktail bar in Covent Garden.

Neither of the latter establishments has benefited from being managed by Regent - at least, not as far as the customer is concerned. Now, despite the usual protests to the contrary, change at the Fire Station seems inevitable - though Mr Evans, who has the assistance of Juliet Peston, Mr Little's former deputy, will apparently stay on for the time being.

THE British are supposed to be a nation of dog lovers, but we would surely not be so barking mad as to come up with a beer produced specifically for man's best friend. Such a brew emanates from the Adelshoffen brewery at Strasbourg, in France, and is called Oaw (French for 'woof').

Adelshoffen is notorious for such gimmicks as Biere Amoureux, a light lager spiced with ginseng that comes in a phallic bottle. But surely a dog-dedicated beer is one marketing stunt too far? Michel Debus, the boss of the brewery, insists that we are not being sold a pup. And, sadly, there is no hope of Rover getting as drunk as a fiddler's bitch. 'It is not really beer, but a side product of the brewing process that we are selling as a tonic for dogs,' Mr Debus explained.

He must be sure of his market, since he intends to churn out 50,000 cartons per day of the drink which, he emphasises, is non-fattening and enriched with all the vital vitamins and minerals that a growing pooch needs. Furthermore, since Oaw is alcohol-free, there will be no call, the morning after, for hair of the dog.

MICHAEL Jackson, the Independent's intrepid beer hunter, has won the Andre Simon Award for the best book about drink to be published in Britain in 1993.

Presenting our man with a cheque for pounds 2,000, Paul Henderson, the American proprietor of the Gidleigh Park hotel, described his Beer Companion as 'completely original, wonderfully organised, beautifully illustrated and fantastically well-written'. It is the first time that the Andre Simon Award, made in honour of the French gastronome who founded the Wine and Food Society in 1933, has been awarded to a writer on beer.

From the eight books shortlisted for the food award, Sri Owen's The Rice Book was chosen as the winner, and the special commendation went to Henrietta Green for her Food Lover's Guide to Britain.