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Clifford Mould took the easy shift

The thing about Vingt-Quatre is that it never closes. Some of my cooking students reported that it was a great place to go when you emerge in the wee small hours from a club, dehydrated and ecstatic but hungry as a horse. But, they enthused, it's got the kind of things on the menu that you'd really like. I took this to mean good ingredients, nicely cooked, sensibly but thoughtfully presented, and served by smiling, helpful waiting staff. Clubbing, regretfully, passed me by more than a little while ago, so four of us turned up the other night at the more conventional time of half past eight to give the place the onceover.

It's a skinny, corridor of a space, rather dominated by a big chrome bar, but having a long bench seat all the way down the opposite wall. Actually the decor looked surprisingly cool, and there was a good crowd of nice looking young Fulhamites tucking into some interesting looking platefuls. There's an all day menu, but at dinner time there were quite a few chef's specials. I wish they'd jot them down on a bit of paper. Having the attention span of a gnat, I simply can't remember what the first one was by the time the waiter is chanting the detail of the last one. No, I do remember, the first one was the soup of the day, which was something nourishing based on carrots. I remember because  Dame Edna Everidge, the notable Melbourne society hostess, was at the next table (though we nearly failed to recognise her in a crafty disguise as a retired Australian cabinet minister). He said how good the soup was, and managed not to spill it down his tie. 

We approved greatly of the crispy duck and coriander salad - light frizzly pieces of duck with a nicely spiced dressing on the leaves. The Avocado, tomato and Mozzarella salad was well put together, but illustrated the difficulties of making a dish which relies almost entirely on the quality of local produce. However hard you try, Fulham ain't Positano. Staying with Italy, the gnocchi, on the other hand were good, and the herby creamy sauce was an excellent lubricant. I had the Eggs Benedict, which I recommend at any time of the day or night. This is comfort food at its very best, and I enjoyed this variant, made with smoked salmon substituting for the more classic ham.

There's a main course version, (though the name Eggs Benedict doesn't appear) with honey roast ham, the same Hollandaise sauce plus a soft poached egg and bubble and squeak on the side - very yummy my friend said. His wife had traditional fish and chips, but not as you know it any more in most neighbourhood chippies. A vast piece of mouth-melting cod was presented on huge chips. She took one look and said she'd never get through it all. But the cod was so succulent and the batter so light that none of us ever got a look in. Little details: a wedge of lemon properly wrapped in muslin, and some very good tartare sauce. A crispy salmon fishcake had a high fish to potato ratio and an interesting watercress and tarragon sauce. I had cornfed chicken in a dark hued sticky veal jus that was seriously good. I didn't care much for the polenta mash which was lumpy in places, but then I'm not a great fan of polenta. The chicken was wrapped in prosciuto ham and remained moist and tender. 

Puds were a little patchy: the Banoffi Pie was too far removed from the Hungry Monk's original creation *. The best of the bunch was the treacle tart which was not cloyingly sweet - also the apple pie which was the American kind, with lots of cinnamon and plenty of apple.

We drank both a Chenin Blanc (£12) and a Cabernet Sauvignon (£14) from the Saxenberg Estate in South Africa. In fact the Chenin was the first thing we ordered when we sat down. The waiter had barely time to speak a word, and when I enthused over the first taste of this wine he beamed proudly. He and most of the staff out front turned out to be South Africans, and I must say they are the smartest, most friendly, attitude-free young people I've had the pleasure to meet. There are a lot of them working in these mid-range eateries, and excellent ambassadors they are for their country.

Vingt-Quatre 325 Fulham Road, London SW10
Tel: 020 7376 7224 

Open twenty four hours: All day breakfasts; Huge club sandwiches and other snacks, as well as proper dining like what we had!

Our three course dinner for four people, complete with two bottles of wine, coffee and service came to £120.00 Good!!

* PS Banoffi Pie was invented at The Hungry Monk, Jevington, Sussex in the late sixties.

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