Two glasses of champagne into a summer's evening, fading light, the clock striking nine as I pick my way alone across the ghostly cobbled courtyard of Somerset House. Very Cinderella - well apart from the scaffolding.

 

Sadly, Prince Charming doesn't show up until almost ten, so, once again, and with feeling - I wait. The bar of Oliver Peyton's new destination restaurant - The Admiralty is empty but for me and two elderly ladies, who sit like conspiratorial smoking bookends at either side of a small table. Meanwhile, I cling to the bar, being pitied by Oleia, The Admiralty's excellent 'Head of Reservations' who looks after me with sisterly concern.

 

It's okay, I haven't been stood up, he's just late, I explain defensively. And anyway, he's gay.

 

Oh, that's all right then, I won't kill him when he arrives, she says brightly, bringing me a bowl of artichoke hearts, a tray of cigarettes (from her own packet), and a day old Metro to read. Romance may be dead, but there's always' Marlboro Lite.

 

I'm absolutely sure that, 'one day', as the song goes, 'my prince will come'. But I wonder, will he ever just bloody well come on time?

 

The bar is attractive enough but unfortunately you can't see the river view through the double height windows unless you teeter on the edge of the stool and crane your neck. I did - and it's lovely. There is a stately terrace outside, but this was closed due to the great British climate's steadfast refusal to join the rest of Europe and enjoy al fresco dining.

 

The restaurant is a series of rooms reached from a long corridor to one side of Seaman's Hall, not yet quite integrated into the partly restored building. There's a deli, the bar and then two small dining rooms, all with ship-shaped chandeliers, leather banquettes in a beautiful Bounty ad shade of turquoise, and a stuffed crocodile, amongst other curiosities, mounted on the wall. It's a bit cramped, and the raised ledges along the tables don't help the vaguely claustrophobic feel. They look like the kind you get in American diners which usually hold serviettes, ketchup, the one-eyed sugar dispenser and bowls of sweet'n low. In theory these are for the house specialities: whole terrines which you slice yourself, or the basket of cruditˇs and accompanying dips - both served as hors d'oeuvres. In practice, you bump your arm against the ledges and send them flying into the next table.

 

When my companion arrives, a sweet, dishevelled thing in combat trousers, carrying a courier's message bag and with hair like an electric shock, it's much too late to think about elaborate vegetable rituals.

 

I was so tired, and the lighting in the restaurant so low that I couldn't decipher the small print on the menu without my specs. I had to have the waiter read it out to me which is incredibly ageing, but not as bad as resorting to the magnifying glass which I carry in my handbag for A-Z emergencies.

 

The menu is short and simple - roast salmon, veal chop, black-leg chicken, with sautˇed vegetables with pesto for meat-fearing folk. The young prince started with the chilled pot au feu - not my choice but he pronounced it enjoyable. No matter how traditional it may be - it just says cold stew with a French accent.

 

I had scallops arranged on a layer of cabbage and pork belly with warm balsamic dressing. It was a pleasingly well-flavoured, light dish, but felt as though it had also been kept waiting for longer than necessary.

 

The monkfish with courgettes, turnips, peppers and tomatoes was good and of generous proportions. My two tiny little fillets of red mullet were perfect for a late supper, but a tad on the meagre side. Hungry people would have needed vegetables, or at least bread, which failed to materialise.

 

Puddings - we had raspberries sandwiched between three fairly ordinary Sable Breton - butter biscuits - and an excellent oversized chocolate mousse which was enough to feed two very eager diners by itself. The tart tatin looked wonderful but serves a minimum of two people, and we couldn't get a consensus.

 

For food to fantasise about afterwards, my heart still belongs to Oliver Peyton's other newish place - downstairs at Isola. However, it's a dream of a location, especially outside on the terrace in the largely fictional summer. Last time I was there I spotted John Cusak. This time we were told that Lord Rothschild was sitting at the table next to us, but to our shame, neither of us knew which one he was. I feel dignitaries should wear badges so the public can tick them off on their celebrity bingo cards. I'll never get a full line at this rate.

 

 

At midnight it was time to wander back past the silent fountains for the long, expensive taxi ride home. The young prince offered to pay, thanked me profusely, found me a cab, and proved to be the funniest dinner companion I've had in months. Who needs a fairy godmother? All this chap lacks is a penchant for women. And maybe a watch.