LEEDS

Wherever two or three converted warehouses are gathered together, preferably near water, a smart restaurateur is bound to move in. Michael Gill and his team have established themselves at Pool Court at 42, The Calls, Leeds LS2 8AQ (01132-444242), and next door (same kitchen; simpler cuisine) at Brasserie 44 (01132-343232), overlooking the River Aire and Tetley's brewery. The name Pool Court reminds us that for many years they ran one of Yorkshire's finest restaurants at Pool in Wharfedale, but they have now opted for a sharper city approach, with a dining room like the first- class lounge of a Thirties liner, and a cossetting menu of foie gras terrine, roast veal sweetbreads, and fillet of turbot with wild mushrooms. Two- course lunch at Pool Court pounds 17.50. Main courses from pounds 5 at Brasserie 44. Open lunch and dinner Mon-Fri, Sat dinner only

LAKE DISTRICT

If you like five-course dinners (or lunches for that matter), then the Lake District is for you. Grasmere makes a good base - appetite shouldn't be a problem after a day on the fells - and of its two excellent restaurants White Moss House, Rydal Water, Grasmere LA22 9SE (01539-435295), is the smaller and cosier. Everybody meets for drinks at 7.30 for 8, and eats the same sensible food at the same sensible pace: soup of carrot, coriander seed and lentils, a duo of smoked and poached salmon, three tasty pink lamb chops in a mint and redcurrant sauce, cheese, and sponge pudding. Dinner Mon-Sat, price pounds 27.50. Up the road at Michael's Nook, Grasmere LA22 9RP (01539-435496), the setting is grander, the food more varied and inventive. Baked fillet of tuna is served with purple truffled potatoes, and pan-fried rump of lamb comes with kidney, sweetbreads, a slice of tongue in ravioli and a heap of lentils. Dinner daily, 7.30 for 8.00. Five-course a la carte, pounds 38; set seven-course, pounds 46

LONDON

Restaurants in Charlotte Street have two options. They can be part of the furniture, to which customers return as they might to the corner shop, or they can be cutting-edge, in which case they have to run fast even to stand still, but can charge more for it. Richard Neat at Pied-a-Terre, 34 Charlotte Street, London W1P 1HJ (0171-916 1171) falls into the latter category, and he has two particularly strong suits - shellfish and offal - which produce the likes of roasted scallops with oyster sauce, seaweed and cardamom, or a salad of pig's head with brains and gherkins. The pre-dessert creme brulee is a gem, and real puddings run to roasted plum tart, or dark chocolate souffle with black cherry sorbet. Good service and wines. Open Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner only. Two-course set lunch pounds 16.50. Lunch and dinner formula, pounds 33 starter and main course; pounds 6.50 dessert. Private dining room

As fast-food joints get faster and faster up and down the street outside, Hilaire, 68 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LQ (0171-584 8993) remains serene and calm within. New and fashionable hang-outs may get more publicity, but many of them don't last. Bryan Webb has been here for a decade, Hilaire for longer, and that takes some doing. He can rustle up a plate of crispy artichoke, mixed leaves, sun-dried tomato and Parmesan for a first-course salad just like the rest of them, but he has the skill to make the herb crust on a pink rack of lamb count for something, and he has enough Welsh magic to produce an absolutely wonderful roast fillet of bass with laverbread. Fairly priced wines. Two-course set lunch pounds 16.50, three-course pounds 20.50; four-course set dinner pounds 32.50. Open lunch Mon-Fri, 12.15-2.00; dinner Mon-Sat, 6.30-11

PLYMOUTH

A square in the ugly rebuilt centre of Plymouth is one of the last places you might expect to find a serious French restaurant. But Chez Nous, 13 Frankfort Gate, Plymouth PL1 1QA (01752-266793) is as seriously French as they come, definitively red, white and blue, with menus from some of Jacques Marchal's own favourite restaurants (Troisgros and Verge) decorating the walls. Make for firm-textured steamed red mullet or turbot, the duck with lentils, or French onion soup. Marchal relies on a combination of utterly sound technique, a thriving market, and a repertoire that is more standard than avant-garde. Three-course set lunch/dinner pounds 28.50, Tues- Sat

SCOTLAND

Scotland is blessed with more than a few restaurants that make a virtue of simple fish and shellfish. Try The Cellar at Anstruther and the But 'n' Ben at Auchmithie on the east coast, or the Pierhouse at Port Appin on the west, and, most spectacularly, the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Clachan Farm, Ardkinglas, Cairndow, Argyll PA26 8BH (01499-600236). A barn-like building houses the restaurant, and a smokehouse takes care of most of the "cooking". Fresh oysters, or a trio of gravlax, cold-smoked and hot-smoked salmon, are its forte, and you can eat any dish, in any combination, at any time. You can also come away with armfuls of salmon and tubs of marinated herrings, or ring the mail order department (01499- 600264) for a price list. 9am-9pm daily in summer

Comments