The meal I would most like to duplicate this year? Sunday brunch at the Taverna Cretekou. Not because the food was so outstanding (the cold dishes, particularly the eggplant with pine nuts and tomatoes, are awfully good but the hot dishes, from the limp burek to the dried-out roast lamb to the veal and mushrooms in gluey white sauce, suffer from being set out on a steam-table). But a summer afternoon in the brick courtyard, lingering over some chilled drink of orange juice and champagne, you could forget that life -- or even your food -- isn't perfect. Taverna has about as pretty an outdoor dining place as Washington has seen. It also has charming and eager waiters -- though I do quarrel with their not telling you that brunch includes champagne until after you have ordered a drink. And the long buffet has plenty to fill you deliciously. The baba ghanouj, the salad with feta and pointy purple olives, the yogurt with cucumber, the stuffed grape leaves add up to a refreshing warm-weather lunch. And fruit salad makes a better brunch dessert than soggy honey-drenched phyllo, anyway.

Taverna Cretekou serves other appealing meals, too; its extensive Greek menu is by-and- large good. And its indoor dining is as close as an enclosed space could come to looking like a Greek island. Here is a place that proves that a restaurant is far more than a kitchen.818 King St., Alexandria. 548-8688. L $4.50-$9.50, D $8.50- $14.50. L, D daily. Closed Mon. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Res sugg. Full bar.