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Guide to restaurants in St James's, SW1

NB: All prices are shown in pounds sterling

St James's is one of my favourite London villages. Mayfair can be glitzy to the point of vulgarity, but St James's is, or was, the haunt of gentlemen. Shirtmakers, purveyors of manly fragrances and unguents, cheesemongers, auction houses and other businesses of rectitude and long standing are to be found, best exemplified by the ancient shop front of Berry Brothers and Rudd, perhaps the oldest (and, arguably the best) established wine merchant in the world, and the first to have a web site on the internet.

All the best clubs are in St James's. Their kitchens are often derided by foodies as being redolent of boarding school dinners. This is an unfair calumny: in the winter, they are often the best places to eat game cooked in the finest traditional manner. But they are exclusive by definition, and St James's also has a fine selection of restaurants that are open to everyone prepared to pay, and book, in some cases.

A few establishments trade on the gentlemen's club cachet, like Wilton's, Green's and Rowley's, but there are also examples of the ultra modish like The Avenue and Quaglino's. There are foodie restaurants such as L'Oranger and "33", but The Square is moving to Mayfair, and taking its Michelin star with it, which I hope will explain its absence from our roundup.

Quaglino's, 16 Bury Street W1

It's amazing to reflect that Q has been going for four years. It still encapsulates the nouveau gastrodome Conran style that has spawned many a clone ever since. I had a drink in the bar the other day and toyed with some delicious oysters so that I could look down on this theatrical space. Every so often it was bathed in a fitful orange glow from the flaming pans in the open kitchen at one side. The seafood bar at the end of the former ballroom redefines the word cornucopea. It was here in the fifties and sixties that Debs had their coming out balls, and toe rags like me tried every trick in the book to gate crash. The worst thing was getting your picture in Jennifer's dairy when you hadn't been invited. Happy days.

The Menu at Quaglino's is very eclectic, but I'd stop short of describing it as fusion cuisine. For Stg 14.50, there's a prix fixé at lunch or pre-theatre between 5.30 and 6.30pm. Typical main courses might be shoulder of pork, crackling and apple sauce; Grilled skate and sauce gribiche; roast chicken, rocket and aïoli.

From the a la carte, starters are in the range 4.50 for pasta e faglioli, to 6.50 for Goat's cheese and caramelised onion tart, or 7.50 for crepe parmentier, smoked haddock and asparagus. There's masses of fruits de mer, from a reasonable 7.85 for a half dozen large and juicy rock oysters to 26.00 for whole lobster mayonnaise.

Main courses start at 12.50 for fish and chips, (there's a lot of chips about, I noticed), or 13.00 for duck confit with rocket and lentils vinaigrette. For 17.50 you could have baked sea bass, olive oil, fennel and herbs. I thought fennel was a herb? Desserts cost around 6.00 for such trifles as Pavlova with berries, or the tyranny of tarte tatin for two for a tenner. Quaglino's ashtrays cost 8.50 each, but don't be tempted to nick off with them as they set off the alarm bells. I can't imagine why anyone would want to risk prison for one!

33 St James's Street W1, Tel: 020 7930 4272

"33" has been open for just over a year. If you like still life paintings of food, this is the place for you, they are most impressive and they certainly get your juices going. The lunch menu costs 16.95 for two courses. The same selection is offered at dinner when the starters cost 7.95, and the mains are 14.95. There are a few supplements, but they amount only to a couple of pounds, perhaps a little more for foie gras.

There's a really well contrasted selection of modern style dishes: to begin with you might well have difficulty choosing from quail breasts with spiced pear and watercress; individual ravioli of char grilled chicken and potato, enhanced with tarragon; crisp tartlet of Finnan haddock with poached egg draped in hollandaise and seasoned with lime and ginger, or sweet and spiced foie gras on cardomon and black pepper (4.00 supplement). I'd be in an agony of indecision over that lot, and it's barely half of what's on offer!

For mains, there's pot roasted John Dory on creamed spring onions, puy lentils, bacon and shallots; peppered calves liver on potato dauphinoise with a marc de Bourgogne and green peppercorn sauce; roasted squab pigeon with braised savoy cabbage and Boulangère in a red wine reduction. Stop stop, I'm going crazy! We hope to bring you a full magazine review of this restaurant soon.

The Avenue Restaurant and Bar, 7-9 St James's Street W1 Tel: 020 7321 2111

This is a very high tech, designer space. Once through the plate glass there's the vista ahead of a long, long bar. The minimalist surfaces reflect a lot of noise, which amplifies the clangorous sound of people out for fun. The food is modern in style with well contrasted offerings such as oxtail soup with horseradish dumplings @ 4.95; roulade of foie gras, duck confit and cabbage with sweet raisins and toasted brioche @ 9.50 (you sure know what you're getting); endive tart tatin with green herb mustard @ 4.75

Mains: roast cod with clam chowder @ 13.50, glazed oyster and scallops with spinach and roast fennel @ 16.50; roast venison with parsnips, pickled walnuts and port jus 16.95 - the dish of the day was fricasée of venison, sauternes dumpling and foie gras butter sauce @ 15.00. Rump of lamb with anchovies, garlic and puy lentil jus @ 14.25. Desserts from 4.75 included sticky toffee pudding with pecan praline cream - Delia redefined!

Pre and post theatre menus operate between the hours of 5.45 - 7.30, and after 10.15pm, when you can enjoy two courses for 13.50, or theree for 15.50. the menu is a cut down selection from the carte, so it looks like a good way to try the place out. Ashtrays 8.50 or three months in Wormwood Scrubs.

L'Oranger, 5 St James's Street, SW1 Tel: 020 7839 3774

This is a very attractive place with a lovely conservatory surrounded by charming old eighteenth century houses. It is situated next door to the venerable premises of Berry Bros, the wine merchants. It was pretty nice when it was Overton's, but last year after a fairly minimal refurbishment, it reopened and is doing extremely well thank you. Don't leave it to chance, the keen pricing attracts foodies which means you need to book. At lunch, two courses cost 16.00, three courses cost 19.50. Very much the same menu costs only a two or three pounds more in the evening.

Starters might include: Terrine of ham hock and parsley served with a tomato gaspacho; Ragout of mussels with hand rolled pasta; Parfait of chicken liver with pear chutney and toasted brioche. Mains: brill coated with crispy potatoes, creamed leeks and a red wine reduction; Pan fried mullet with confit of Mediterranean vegetables and a herb salad; rabbit leg confit served with frisée salad and pommes sautés.

Rowley's: 113 Jermyn Street SW1. Tel: 020 7930 2707

Jermyn Street is where all the super shirtmakers and gentlemen's odds and ends stockists are located. The tone has lowered a little recently with the opening of some rather outré outfitters that stock outrageously priced Italian suits with ghastly buttons that you wouldn't be seen dead in even on a blazer.

Rowley's is an establishment of the older, clubby style which concentrates on jolly good straightforward grills but with a modern twist here and there. The room is wondrous to behold - it was the old Walls Pork Sausage shop, and the original polychrome tiling is as good as that at Bibendum. Starters in the summer included fresh English asparagus with chive butter, 5.75 (this is the sort of thing at which they excel); courgette stuffed with baby ratatouille and served with a tarragon sauce 5.75 (see what I mean about a modern twist).

Main courses all come with Rowley's unlimited supplies of French Fries. When we visited in summer there was char grilled Scottish entrecote steak for 11.95; breast of Sussex chicken with their secret butter and herb sauce (eat your heart out Col Sanders); steamed fillet of red snapper with a julienne of vegetables and mild mustard sauce 12.75. I even saw the word jus on the menu. But never fear, this is mostly good hearty eating of the English trencherman kind.

Look out for more next week: From Jermyn Street to Japan.

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