Travel

Take your pick in Courchevel, Chamonix, Sainte-Foy, Megève, and Val Thorens

Susie Rushton: Spare me the hum please, Mr Hoon

Urban Notebook: Never so loud as to actually disrupt thoughts, the sound of Boeings and Airbuses sigh and groan in the sky

The chef: Rachel Humphrey

There's a new face at the helm of the two-Michelin-starred French restaurant Le Gavroche in London's Mayfair – and she's a woman. Rachel Humphrey, 30, formerly senior sous chef at the restaurant, was recently named head chef; the first woman to gain such a position in the restaurant's 42-year history. But she's much too clever – and honest – to be lured into idle speculation on the subject of whether the small number of female chefs in the UK is due to a lack of talent or a shortage of opportunity. "I'm not really sure why Britain's restaurant industry is male-dominated," she says, "but there are certainly more and more opportunities for women chefs these days. As far as I'm concerned, what's most important is to prove yourself in the kitchen, whatever your sex. The kitchen environment can be aggressive, but I learnt that the best way to be respected in the kitchen was to make sure that I never gave the guys any ammunition against me."

Food Of The Week

The chef's special: a top-class meal that won't break the bank

The Sketch: A great healer who talks in double negatives

Who is Tony Blair any more? Who is he in the Middle East? Is he anyone? What answers does he have to the three big regional questions?

The Unfree French, by Richard Vinen

Ordeals and deals of a land in chains

Food & drink: Fashionably late

Eating Out: While it's true that Cocoon may not be a first-generation, quick-off-the-blocks pan-Asian restaurant, it does deliver the goods in a gloriously groovy setting

Sketch, London

The Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire has brought his culinary tricks to London - and the result is wildly extravagant in all senses, says Tracey MacLeod

Eating out: Hmm, jolly nice: St John's

91 Junction Road, Archway, London, N19, 0171 272 1587. Lunch Mon- Fri noon-3.30pm, dinner Mon-Fri 6-11pm. Food served Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-10.30pm. Three-course dinner pounds 20. Service not included. Credit cards accepted, except Amex and Diners

Parliament: The Sketch: Lordships flounder as they swim against the tide

THERE ARE times when, staring down into the House of Lords from the press gallery, it's possible to imagine the chamber as a vast rock pool, the water so limpid that it has become effectively invisible. At the far end there's a great outcrop of golden coral and, ranged along the walls like pin-striped anemones adhering to weed-covered ledges, their lordships themselves, waving their tendrils in response to some consensual tide of opinion. It has its fish too, some colourful, some snappy, some sleekly menacing, and yesterday it was considering the fact that several hundred of the pool's more exotic occupants were to be plucked from the water, whipped away by the Government's House of Lords Bill, like lobsters from a restaurant holding-tank.

Letter: No cheap wine

Sir: We read the article "Restaurants make pounds 1,000 a bottle profit" (6 March) with interest, and in particular the table which showed us that we were not charging anywhere near enough for the Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac at pounds 310 per bottle, compared with the Oak Room's price of pounds 340 and pounds 350 at Brown's Hotel . We have therefore marked the price up to pounds 450 to maintain the mark-up that we enjoy with all the other wines shown in your table.

Eating Out: Taste of things to come - Hot, happening and opening soon

Yesterday saw the opening of Sir Rocco Forte's much heralded five-star St David's Hotel & Spa in Cardiff and its fine-dining restaurant Tides (01222 454 045). Heading the kitchens is Martin Green from London's Connaught, an expert in classic French cooking. He's using mainly local ingredients to produce such dishes as fillet of Saltmarsh lamb with Provencale couscous, and saddle of rabbit with mustard grain veloute. The restaurant offers spectacular views over the bay through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Lloyd Webber attacks `new fuhrers' of music politburo

Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber has attacked "40 years of madness" in which the Western music hierarchy created a "pernicious politburo" which all but destroyed classical music.

Not bad for starters

Restaurants: Chef Jean-Christophe brings Nouvelli cuisine to Clerkenwel l

LETTER : Being fair to British fare

From Mr Drew Smith

The virtues of simplicity

26 St John Street, London EC1M 4AY. Tel: 0171-251 0848. Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday, lunch only Sunday. Average price per person £25. All major credit cards accepted. price etc ST JOHN
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