Vats is a last oasis in a land of stainless steel and group-run hostelries.
It doesn't give a stuff about being cool. What Vats gives several stuffs about is wine. Contemplating the menu of more than 100 wines is enough to make you woozy. The range is simply superb and incorporates a good many reasonable prices. A half-bottle of the delicious Sancerre is a modest £12.50.
The warm, friendly atmosphere is created by proprietors David and Carrie Allcorn, who have owned the restaurant for more than 20 years. They have that special knack of making you feel 6ft tall when, in fact, you are only 5ft 6in. They are supported by maitre d' Tony Ball and a bevy of beautiful, friendly waitresses - some of whom are resting thespians. The welcome they give you, combined with the hearty traditional fare and scrumptious wines, make a 'quickie' lunch impossible to contemplate.
There is a small restaurant at the front of the wine bar and a larger one at the back, with walls decorated with trompe l'oeil scenes. The restaurant used to have a resident dog, but the health and safety people put a stop to that. Instead, a portrait of the dog is now painted next to the fireplace.
All of this, and low-key lighting, give it an ambiance of unutterable cosiness.
Where: 53 Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1 Contact: 020 7242 8963 How much: £20 for two courses