MEDIA BUYING & PLANNING;THE RIGHT RESTAURANT IS PART OF ANY MEDIA PLAN

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Whether at home or on the road, media people need somewhere to talk business, see and be seen and, of course, eat. Where do those in-the-know go when they visit international media hubs?

The most desirable places are so popular it's hard to get a table (like Mezzo in London or Va Bene in Hong Kong). One rule of thumb: any place created by French architect/designer Philippe Starck (he designed the chairs for Hong Kong's La Bodega) is always chic.

Here are a few choice spots favored by the advertising crowd.

NEW YORK

Among New York's sturdy standbys is steakhouse Smith & Wollensky's (201 E. 49th St., 212-753-1530). Wollensky's Grill (205 E. 49th St., 212-753-1530) is considered hipper.

Truly trendy venues change every month. Union Square Cafe (21 E. 16th St., 212-243-4020) and Vong (200 E. 54th St., 212-486-9592) are fab for now.

Youngest, hippest media people flock to Pravda (281 Lafayette, 212-226-4696), an exclusive bar with a short menu that includes caviar; check out the martini bar.

Media guys from BBDO and Ogilvy & Mather frequent Cite (120 W. 51st St., 212-956-7100), a French place that's not too noisy, dark or smoky. TBWA Chiat/Day and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising folk favor Gramercy Tavern (42 E. 20th St., 212-477-0777) and Asian sensation Nobu (105 Hudson, 212-219-0500).

HONG KONG

Everyone wants to sit in the window at La Bodega (31 Wynd-ham St., 852-2877-5472), especially since Rupert Murdoch was wined and dined there. A three-floor Spanish restaurant with a twist, it serves cutting-edge cuisine and fabulously wicked dessert platters.

M at the Fringe (2 Lower Albert Road Central, 852-2877-4000), also known as Michelle's, is where agencies take clients when they want to keep their business. A quirky decor and deliberately mis-matched plates complement the talents of Australian chef Andrew McConnell.

There's a right place and wrong place to sit at Va Bene (58 Daguilar St., 852-2845-5577). At lunchtime, sit in the window to see movers and shakers coming and going. At night, sit in the main room behind the bar. But book early, or forget it.

LONDON

Sir Terence Conran's 650-seat Mezzo (100 Waldorf St., 44171 314-4000), in Soho, is a top choice. Its upstairs Asian cafe, Mezzanine, is also popular.

The owners of The Ivy (1 W. St., 44171 836-4751) have revamped a '20s thespian haunt into a classy but congenial Covent Garden restaurant serving "modern British" cuisine to media regulars and an "A" list of celebrities.

Climb a winding staircase past crumbling walls to Christopher's (18 Wellington St., 44171 240-4222), packed with media and agency people eating lots of American-style food. It's best at lunch or (rare for London) brunch.

MIAMI AREA

Coral Gables is a center for agencies and marketers, and Nor-man's (21 Almeria Ave., Coral Gables, 305-446-6767) is the place for them.

Want the South Beach scene without the hustle of Ocean Drive? Head to The Nemo (100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305532-4550). J. Walter Thompson USA held a recent worldwide manager meeting there, bringing in some 20 execs to dine on the terrace.M

Contributing: Janine Stein, Hong Kong; Laurel Wentz, London; Christine Yun, New York; and Jeffery D. Zbar, Hollywood, Fla.

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