Covent Garden: at the heart of London, but still a lousy place to eat. In this dessert, the Café des Amis has long been a safe, if dull, choice, especially before or after a performance at the nearby Royal Opera House.

This is, in fact, two places. The basement wine bar is possibly of most interest to those not wielding the corporate plastic. Despite changes of ownership, it still offers pretty much the same formula – decent wines and a good Gallic cheeseboard – that seemed so à la mode back in 1980, when the place opened. The unpretentious décor is still pretty much the same too. And the crush pre-opera.

The ground-floor restaurant, with its quietly-situated outside tables, has had a more chequered career. It was given a bland modern make-over in recent times, and did its time as a modern British brasserie . You’d never know if from the appearance, but this is now a truly French restaurant again. Quite a pricey one too. You understand why people find London expensive when a basic (but nicely-done) brasserie meal – onion soup, kidneys, chocolate trio – ends up with a bill approaching £50 a head. Without much to drink.

For ‘safety-first’ client entertainment, though, this is a hard place to beat, thanks not least to its (mainly French) wine selection, which offers decent choices in most price-ranges. Advertised closing is 1am too: Johnny Client should be well on his way back home before the chairs make their appearance on the tables.

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