Diary: Let's Do Lunch - Joe Allen

Reviewed by Jim Hawker, co-founder of Threepipe Communications.

I am forever in gratitude to a former colleague who introduced me to Joe Allens. It is one of London's best-kept secrets.

You would never know it was there, a place of refuge away from the hustle and bustle of the Covent Garden piazza.

A small sign points the way down into a dark and dingy stairway that is more common in Soho. You descend the stairs, trying not to trip, open the doors and you are greeted by smiles - not fixed ones, but the genuine 'welcome to the club' kind of smile.

The clientele is very hard to judge. Lunchtime and dinner always seems to be the same sort of crowd. A mix of suits (no ties), jeans and a few well-known faces from theatreland. The common bond is the desire to have fun, catch up and relax.

This place is ideal for those clients and journalists who you actually get on with and with whom you are prepared to relax your guard.

The fifties-style film photographs and posters are all around you, as you choose from an American-influenced menu of steaks, salads and lots of ice-cream-based desserts. Loud but not too loud, service is definitely of the American variety - ie good.

If you want to get to experience it though, watch out first for the steep steps.

Where: 13 Exeter Street, London, WC2E

Contact: 020 7836 0651

How much: £30 for three courses per head

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