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The presentation of the annual Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards, for which readers of the London listings magazine nominate their favourite restaurants and bars in eight categories, was attended by many movers and shakers, none more prominent than Nick Smallwood. The co- owner of Kensington Place was anxious for the ceremony to proceed as quickly as possible since he was needed back at base, but the organisers refused to tell him whether or not he would be required to accept the award for Best Service.

In the event, it was Martin Lam, of Ransome's Dock in Battersea, who received a commemorative plate from Claudia Roden. He explained that the service had little to do with him, since he is the cook, but was the responsibility of the charming Jill O'Sullivan. Genially, Mr Lam thanked Mr Smallwood for introducing him to Ms O'Sullivan in the first place.

Inexplicably, Wagamama, the noodle bar near the British Museum that has become a phenomenal success since it opened last April, was not even shortlisted as the Best New Restaurant. That honour went to Granita, in Islington (071- 226 3222), which is too new for its phone number to appear in the current edition of the Time Out Guide. Wagamamania did, however, rear its head in the Best Value category, which apparently attracted more votes from Time Out readers than any other award.

Philip Howard, of The Square in St James's, beat such established names as Sally Clarke (of Clarke's), Stephen Bull (of Bull's), and Sebastian Snow (of Snow's) to the prize for Best Modern British cooking and was later overheard on the telephone trying to negotiate some time off in which to celebrate.

FOLLOWING in the footsteps of Raymond Blanc, Keith Read, the chef and proprietor of the Leatherne Bottel, at Goring on Thames, Oxfordshire (0491 872667), has been awarded L'Ordre de Napoleon for his proposal for an imaginary banquet to be served to Napoleon and three pairs of guests. He chose: Madame Bollinger to slurp champagne and trade bons mots with Winston Churchill; the enthralling Peter Ustinov and the mesmerising Marlene Dietrich; plus the German porn queen turned business millionaire, Bete Ulse, with Marco Pierre White to keep her amused.

Mr Read, who used to run the front of house at a restaurant called Read's in Fulham, west London, and only started cooking professionally a couple of years ago when he moved out of town, proposed to serve his guests an exemplary menu of modern British cooking, such as one might find on his everyday menu. The six courses consisted of: Irish oysters with chilli salsa; pan-fried sea bass with samphire; cep mushrooms on black olive toast; roast grouse with chickpeas, coriander and spring onions; baked goat's cheese with rocket leaves, apricot chutney and cobnuts; warm ginger souffle with rosemary and nasturtium ice-cream to finish.

THE GROWTH in popularity of single malt whiskies within a market that has been in overall decline over the past few years illustrates the change in peoples' drinking habits, from quantity to quality, but is due in no small part to the drinks companies' promotion of their premium brands. Of these, none has been more successful than United Distillers' Classic Malt Collection, which stands in its distinctive back bar display case in pubs the length and breadth of the country. Now, though, there is the chance to try them at home with a tasting pack containing six miniatures and a video in which our man Michael Jackson talks you through the range, from the gentle, honeyed Dalwhinnie to the fierce, peaty Talisker, in his own inimitable style. Perhaps the perfect Fathers' Day present, the Classic Malts of Scotland tasting pack costs pounds 17.95.

THE Gastropod's rhyme-writing competition on the theme of barbecues has brought out a macabre sense of humour from some entrants. Simon Collins, of Bromsgrove, wrote:

'You know,' my mother-in-law spoke,

'Serving hot dogs was a rather poor joke.

Not Tabasco, but surprise

Brought tears to my eyes

When my Pekinese went up in smoke.'

This is just a sample of the many witty entries received. More will be published next week along with the announcement of the winner of the Tabasco-branded barbecue. Last- minute entries can be faxed to The Gastropod on 071-956 1739, to arrive by noon on Monday.