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Of Pubs and Cafes: Tips From Locals : The best souvenirs are often recommendations you get for the next trip.

February 07, 1993|JUDITH MORGAN

My favorite souvenir of any journey is a juicy tip for the next.

Especially if I have wangled the name of an off-beat cafe from a renowned chef or hotelier. Or if I have overheard locals comparing pubs or bookshops or walks.

Among the tempting recommendations from recent travels:

Geraldine Thorne, head housekeeper at the splendid new Franklin Hotel in London's Knightsbridge district, suggests dropping by the Swag and Tails, a refurbished pub just beyond the Brompton Oratory on Brompton Road, next door to the Victoria and Albert Museum. She also told me about the shaded footpath, to the right of the church, which is a shortcut that leads to Hyde Park.

For Italian restaurants in London, three friends agreed on Scalini, at 3 Walton St. in the neighborhood of Harrods. They compared Scalini to the ultra fashionable--and more expensive--San Lorenzo, at 22 Beauchamp Place, where royals, estranged royals and watchers-of-both hang out.

An erstwhile stamp collector, with whom I talked in a theater line, mentioned a philatelist's pub called the Penny Black (a bit out of the tourist path in Moorfields, just east of London) that boasts an extraordinary collection of stamps from the General Post Office Museum. A World War II veteran, whom I met at a house party in Suffolk, said he enjoys the camaraderie--and the upstairs buffet--at Shepherd's Tavern in Shepherd Market. This Mayfair pub, with its bottle-glass windows and comfortable upholstered chairs, was a wartime hangout for Royal Air Force pilots.

In the south of France, at the tip of Cap Ferrat on the glittering Cote d'Azur, I stood on the canopied terrace of the former Grand Hotel, now blissfully reborn as the Bel-Air Cap Ferrat, and talked with Hansjorg Maissen, the ebullient general manager. He was justifiably proud of his chef, the Michelin star-bearing Jean-Claude Guillon, but his eyes also sparkled at the thought of a nearby, family-owned barbecue place called La Chaumiere.

"It is straight up from here on the Grand Corniche, high above Villefranche," Maissen said. "The name means 'the cottage,' but all you see parked around it are Rolls-Royces and Ferraris. You just sit down and they serve you: some beautiful ham and melon to start, and a huge basket of raw vegetables and dips from the garden. The only thing you choose is lamb or beef. And later one of maybe five desserts--for which they bring a huge bowl of fresh creme and a ladle."

The set price at La Chaumiere is about 350 francs, or $70, Maissen said. Regulars include Tina Turner, whose house is two minutes away.

In Nice, just west of Cap Ferrat, I met Michel Palmer, the engaging director of the Hotel Negresco, a noble landmark whose eclectic style is a daring mix of theater, history and charm. (One bathtub was turquoise with spangles; the room next door had a medieval motif with a faux-mink spread on a four-poster bed. No wonder Elton John feels at home.) We spoke of the ancient hill towns above the Cote d'Azur, and Palmer shared his favorite escape.

"For the best grilled fish and meat--maybe in all of France--I drive to the Josy-Jo at Haut-de-Cagnes," he said. "Very simple, no tablecloths. But the food is superior. Everything is cooked over very deep coals; no flames, just cooked from the heat. On a summer evening . . . well, just go. You'll see."

And a guide at the dazzling Picasso Museum in Antibes told me, "If you liked Eze you must visit Gourdon. It is smaller and quieter. It is more haunted."

Since I loved the town of Eze, on its windy, eagle's-nest perch, I can hardly wait for Gourdon.

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