The Ninth, W1

Deciding what to do with a meal can be fraught. Usually in a good way. What’s our risk appetite? How can I persuade the group to indulge my food craving? What mood am I in? Will I abide those terribles seats for that great food?

Having some principles makes life easy: I don’t queue for tables; I don’t pay restaurant prices for sit-down street food; when I’m tired, I take greater comfort in good service than good food.

The fraughtness that makes these choices exciting is offset by the occasional fumble. With the best intentions and firmest convictions, I can find myself exposed to an experience at once on brief and wide of the mark. I walk myself into something diametrically opposed to what I wanted. Exquisitely wrong, with only myself to blame.

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Prawn On The Lawn, N1

When I was a naive and tedious youth, a good friend who was a little older and a whole lot wiser used to speak of TWOT nights. Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday: the three weeknights during which Londoners had to go out at least once, to embrace the city, to explore or revisit or otherwise engage. Else you might as well move to Whitstable – which my friend did, many years later.

Mondays are sacred. Fair enough. The weekend was too big, the nights’ sleep too short. The Sunday papers bought with every good intention rest unbothered in the corner. And Fridays, well, it’s no more a weeknight than Sunday night is the weekend.

Which leaves us with TWOT. So easy to complete in our youth; so easy to forego in our middle age. Warm thanks, then, for a good local restaurant, which indulge us comfortably when we come home to find ourselves unenthused by the fridge and unimpassioned by the corner cupboard.

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Etles, E11

It is a common misconception that London is a city. It is, in fact, a series of communities, tied together by bonds of underground line, riverbank, compass direction, night bus. And beyond and beneath these geographic communities, we have cultural communities, rendering their own flavours to the streets.

So appetised, your average gutter-jumping Londoner can venture towards the TfL horizons and be generously rewarded for their commitment and optimism. It happened to us a few weekends back in Singburi, Leyton, and in the same spirit of greedy anthropology we set off to Walthamstow, once of Essex, now of Greater London.

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