My BBQ is officially packed away until next summer, and I'm already looking forward to long evenings indoors, mood lighting and warming winter food. At this time of year I'm always on the lookout for snug restaurants - each year I find new favourites to add to my list. These are just a few of my top recommendations from around the globe... LONDON: Maggie Jones The original gastropub - this place was a beloved Kensington fixture long before English pub food became cool. Decor here is unapologetically rustic, and I can't resist its mix-and-match shabby-chic. The menu has barely changed since Princess Margaret (name drop!) was a regular, and everyone knows you simply have to order the fish pie. There's nowhere better for escaping the inevitable British rain! NYC: Keens Steakhouse This New York institution perfectly captures the spirit of old-fashioned America. Walls are decorated with stern-looking forefathers and moose heads: this is textbook hunting lodge chic. The atmosphere reminds me of a well-run members club, with dark wood-panel walls, crisp white tablecloths and a no-nonsense menu of oysters and steak. For a special occasion go all out with one of their banquet rooms. PARIS: Le Bistro Paul Bert The search is over: this is the film-noir Paris bistro you have been imagining and craving. Well, I know I have anyway! So many of the city's bistros have become overcrowded, touristy and chain-owned. Paul Bert is a rare exception, serving classic Gallic fare without pretension and maintaining a very loyal crowd of patrons. Its slightly battered interior adds to the retro charm. FLORENCE: La Beppa Fioraia This ristorante is in the hip San Niccolo neighbourhood, far away from main tourist routes, so you really have to know it's there to find it. Unlike some of the eateries on this list, the decor at La Beppa is nothing to write home about - colourful but fairly unsophisticated. But I had to put it in my top 5 because its wonderfully friendly and intimate vibe is the very essence of restaurant cosiness. The house special is a sharing platter, laden with meats, cheeses, salads, breads and relishes in abundance. TOKYO: Tofuya Ukai In Tokyo's high-rise jungle, Tofuya Ukai is an unexpected treat: a modest, low-rise building in natural wood, surrounded by a tranquil Japanese garden. Instead of a main dining room there are countless private chambers where guests enjoy their tofu on traditional tatami mats. In chilly winter months, order the Tosui Tofu for a warming triple-whammy of savoury tofu goodness. Every city has its own secret, cosy haunts... so wherever you live, get exploring! x
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