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Postcard From Tom: London

Sunday, March 6, 2005

What's new in London? Glamorous Indian and Chinese restaurants, for starters. But even British cooking is getting its due, thanks in part to a recent uptick in "gastropubs" --taverns celebrated as much for their food as their brews. Some highlights from a recent tour:

AMAYA (15 Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street, Belgravia, 011-44-20-7823-1166)

A front-row seat in this stylish Indian newcomer means you can watch your fish grill and your naan bake just feet from where you're waiting for them. Forget that the restaurant is in a shopping mall. The lounge is a cocoon of comfort, the service is tops and the lamb kebab -- smooth as pâté and richly spiced -- is one of the best you'll find, anywhere. Other hits: grouper spiked with chilies and mustard, apricot-spinach cheese balls and kaffir lime-flavored shaved ice. Entrees $15-$33.

MORO (34-36 Exmouth Market, 011-44-20-7833-8336)

Bare wood tables and floors provide a spare backdrop to the Spanish- and North African-inspired cooking of Sam and Sam(antha) Clark, the husband-and-wife team behind this open kitchen in central London. Delectable grilled sardines, cardamom-scented sweetbreads, lamb with Turkish peppers, and pistachio-laced yogurt cake keep tables filled. No reservation? Aim for a stool at the long tapas bar. Entrees $25-$32.

YAUATCHA (15 Broadwick St., Soho, 011-44-20-7494-8888)

Elegant Asian desserts are displayed like jewels in the ground-floor tea salon; downstairs awaits an all-day menu of dim sum (Chinese snacks). This chic subterranean space -- with faux stars twinkling overhead and an aquarium that stretches nearly the length of the room -- is as seductive as much of the food, which runs to very good fried squid cakes, baked venison "puffs" and pearly scallop dumplings. Less fun: Yauatcha's strict 90 minutes-for-dinner rule. "The next guests are waiting for your table," a host said, sending us off into the night. Small plates $6-$13.

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