Restaurants: Flying tonight

Bites Thai curry to Cajun to couscous - Caroline Stacey explores the restaurants that are going global

Birdcage 110 Whitfield Street, London W1 (0171-383 3346). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner. The former executive chef of the Hempel's I-Thai restaurant flies in the face of minimalism with his own tiny Fitzrovia dining room. Exact execution and precise presentation make the miscellany of East and West work beautifully at best (at worst, it can lead to a disparate mixture of refined morsels). Thai chicken curry with gingko nuts, and tiramisu work better than Cajun patties with vodka creme fraiche and beansprout salad. Dinner, pounds 19.50 for two, pounds 25 for three courses of unusual depth and delicacy. Lunch is pounds 19.90 for two courses.

Deane's Belfast 38-40 Howard Street, Belfast (01232 560000). Brasserie, Mon-Sat lunch and dinner; restaurant, Tue-Sat dinner. Highly rated, and one of the standard bearers of the renaissance of Belfast. The ground- floor brasserie has Oriental dishes with European: Thai breast of chicken with chilli noodles and curry oil; sirloin of beef; goat's cheese tart. Champ comes top of the vegetables. pounds 25-pounds 30 a head with wine. In the first-floor restaurant, Michael Deane turns out fine classical French dishes with an inventive Eastern edge, distilled, for example, in a dessert of citrus fruit brulee with lemongrass ice cream. Two courses, pounds 27; Seven- course tasting menu, pounds 45.

Nobu 19 Old Park Lane, London W1 (0171-447 4747). Mon-Fri lunch, dinner daily. The London branch of Nobuyuki Matshisa's New York Nobu. Lancashire-born Mark Edwards makes a good enough fist of replicating the "New Style" Japanese (with South American and Nobu's knobs on - as in hamachi sashimi with jalapenos) to have earned the outpost a Michelin star. Fish follows fish at its freshest, fleshiest and purist, with extraordinary twists. Head for the separate sushi bar if you prefer your Japanese fish straight; or the omakase multi-choice menu for pounds 60, if putting together a meal from many incy-wincy options defeats you.

The Sugar Club 21 Warwick Street, London W1 (0171-437 7776). Lunch and dinner daily. Is it an advertising agency? Is it the reception area of a beauty salon? No, it is Peter Gordon's launch pad in the West End. Clinical outside appearances apart, misgivings about fusion don't hold up here. Grilled chorizo on rocket and new potatoes with a soft-boiled egg and sweet potato crisps (pounds 7.20); and beef fillet on polenta with braised Swiss chard and tomato salsa (pounds 17.80) prove that it is not all kangaroo and Iki Jimi red snapper. The cooking doesn't seem to have missed a beat in the process of moving to a restaurant twice the size of its previous Notting Hill incarnation (see page 36). Service has a great deal more heart than the spacious place itself.

Venue 66 Regent Street, Cambridge (01223 367333). Lunch, tea and dinner daily. Just opened. A two-floor brasserie, restaurant and music venue. Food describes itself as Californian or Pacific Rim, and seems to fit that description: pigeon breast with Thai noodles in a chilli and ginger dressing; seared langoustine with cinnamon rice and wild leaves, served in the ground-floor restaurant (which has a stage for live music). Around pounds 35 to pounds 45 a head; Cajun lamb with citrus couscous; grilled goat's cheese with cranberries and star anise dressing in the first-floor brasserie. Around pounds 20 to pounds 25 a head.

Vong Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Place, SW1 (0171-235 1010). Mon-Sat lunch and dinner. Another upmarket franchise of a New York original, the French-Thai hybrid, in, of all places, the Berkeley Hotel (though with Pierre Koffman moving in under the same roof, the whole place is set to become more of a foodie palace). Terribly picturesque plates of sometimes sensational, sometimes too tamely spiced refinements of Thai: quail with spices, crunchy cress salad; roast lemongrass chicken with rice

in a banana leaf. Try exotic fruit salad with white-pepper ice cream, or Valrohna chocolate fondant with lemongrass ice cream. Good value for lunch (pounds 20, or a taster plate for pounds 15), as many Knightsbridge ladies will attest; not extortionate for dinner - pounds 30 without wine

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