THE LAUNCH of the new edition of Egon Ronay's Cellnet Guide (Pan Books, pounds 13.99) was most memorable for Shaun Hill's acceptance speech as Chef of the Year. 'They warned me when I was young that I'd end up in some residential institution on Dartmoor,' jokedthe man whose cooking is reviewed on this page.

Other winners included Jean- Christophe Novelli of Provence at Lymington, Hampshire (0590 682 219), whose bote surprise aux noisettes was the Dessert of the Year, and Roger Burrington-Brown of the Old Vicarage at Witherslack, Cumbria (0448 52381), whose British cheeseboard was judged the best in the country.

All the winners received commemorative plates with pictures of their restaurants except Mr Hill, whose plate featured a likeness of himself looking, he said, 'as if I'd been recently exhumed'.

No orgiastic celebration marked the publication of the new Time Out Guide to Eating and Drinking in London ( pounds 6.99), the 10th edition of the most comprehensive directory of the capital's restaurants and essential reading for anyone wanting to investigate the myriad ethnic establishments. It includes an indispensable list of 1,500 telephone numbers, although it is unfortunate that this crucial A-Z index is still not where it belongs, at the back.

Too new to be included in the guide are such intriguing restaurants as Albero and Grana (071- 225 1048), which is stylish and Spanish, with a Michelin-starred chef from Madrid; Bonjour Vietnam (071-385 7603), which has an undulating bar with a built-in fish tank and a long menu sub-divided into sections called such things as 'wrap and roll' and 'bites and pieces'; and the Italian-American Mezzaluna (071-379 3336).

THE BROTHERS Renzland, Max and Mark, who ran a well reviewed restaurant called Chez Max in Richmond, are re-emerging in Hampton Wick with Le Petit Max (081-977 0236), which they describe as a 'bring-your- own-bottle bistro'. By day it as a cafe called Bonzos, but in the evenings and at Sunday lunchtime it will be transformed into an unlicensed restaurant serving three courses for pounds 12.50.

SINCE attending a demonstration by Yan-kit So of recipes from her new book, Classic Food of China (Macmillan, pounds 25), the Gastropod has become adept at making skin rolls and has taken to heart her advice to 'stir-fry away your frustrations'. The book, which is published next week, describes the theories and beliefs behind the Chinese approach to cookery as well as containing 150 recipes which Yan-kit has laboriously tested in a domestic kitchen so that, she claims, they can be reproduced at home by any cook, no matter how inexperienced.

MONDAY is Australia Day at Old Trafford cricket ground in Manchester, where the Portland Wine Company and Booths of Stockport join forces to present 140 Strine wines. The tasting will take place in the Tyldersley Suite from 4pm to 10pm; tickets are pounds 5, available from Geoffrey Dickinson of the Portland Wine Company (061 962 8752).

THE GASTROPOD is pleased to have made the acquaintance of the self-styled 'Wild Caviar Girls', Alyson Roach and Joan Evans. They are UK agents for a Hong Kong company called Caviarworld, which markets Manchurian beluga caviar whose quality is comparable with the best from Russia and Iran although, at 50p per gram, it is a quarter of the price. Their distribution system consists of an Igloo ice box and a two-zone bus pass, but they have succeeded in selling their caviar to top chefs, including the Roux brothers. If you want to try it, the Wild Caviar Girls can be contacted on 081-747 1436.

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