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Christopher's in the City, London EC3

It's a clever idea when designing a new restaurant: you take a favourite painting, photograph it, then blow up little sections so that they become abstracts that can be dispersed around the room. Then you match the principal colours with paintwork, fabrics, leather chairs, strip light filters and even the genial proprietor's shirt and tie. The neckwear was great - I was less sure about the strip lights though. The painting is 'The Pool' by the American Impressionist Miller-Bunker.

Chef Shaun Arantz, together with Christopher's chef-director Adrian searing, have created a contemporary American menu covering all the classics like sweetcorn and scallop chowder, eggs Benedict, New York strip steaks, big fries and some new ideas. There are plenty of affordable Californian wines to make your meal go with a swing.

To give Christopher's a proper test drive, I took along one of my American culinary arts students who immediately noticed the Maryland crab cake starter. "my grandma makes those" she enthused, "and I always try them whenever I go to a diner". I kept my fingers crossed, but needn't have worried as she was very pleased indeed with the crab cakes and the rocket salad, though she expected more from the red pepper mayo, which we both thought bland and in want of a higher pepper to mayo ratio.  Meanwhile, I was busy with a melt in the mouth carpaccio of beef which came with much the same rocket salad and "Harry's bar dressing" which was surprisingly similar to the red pepper mayo.

New England cod cakes sounded tempting especially with maple cured bacon, but my guest chose another of her favourites, sword fish steak whose meaty texture was complemented by a marvellous sauce with fresh baby clams in the shell. I had the roast partridge, expertly timed and served with a very nice slow cooked "Napa" cabbage with lots of sultanas and a white port reduction.  We had some sautéed green vegetables that had retained their verdant colour and crispness  and some fine mashed potato that had seen some serious bashing and sieving (full marks to the veg department).

By contrast the puds were a tad ordinaire. I was looking forward to a proper baked New York cheesecake, but a supermarket version had been substituted instead. I don't mean to suggest that it had been bought in, though I do have to say that M&S do one that's very similar. Please restore the NY version! The chocolate tart had been made with rather heavy pastry but the filling was rich and smooth and the raspberry sorbet was first class.

The Bar menu looks very good, with Eggs Benedict, salt and pepper squid, bunny terrine, a BLT made with the maple bacon and of course Christopher's celebrated hamburger with big fries. There are some super Californian wines on the not exclusively American list, and as it was lunchtime we enjoyed a delicious Napa Valley chardonnay, golden coloured from Mt Eden, and a rich dark Zinfandel from the same stable, both at £3.50 the glass. 

Given that the kitchen is still settling down at the end of its first full week, they are doing a great job and I look forward to a return visit to see how things are shaping up.

Clifford Mould November 2005

I bet their Thanksgiving Dinner will be an occasion to remember.

Starters £4.50-£8.00, Mains £11.50-£19.00, Puds around £6.00, Bar meals from £4.50 to £8.00

Open Monday Friday 11am - 11pm
www.christophersgrill.com
18 Creechurch Lane EC3A 5AY

Tel: 020 7623 3999

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