Cornhill goes up in the foodie world

The Door Oyster Bar & Grill
33 Cornhill, EC3V 3NG, Tel: 020 7929 1378

Cost per person without wine: £30

CORNHILL is such an atmospheric, iconic City street. It’s a shame, then, that the majority of its food and drink offerings are chains or chain-style affairs. Don’t get me wrong: Alphabet and Pitcher & Piano serve their purpose for a post-work wine binge with chart music thrown in. But if you want something stylish and high quality to drink and eat here that isn’t the vast, echoey and often empty Green’s, then the answer has arrived in the form of the Door.

Sister restaurant to the Green Door in Gloucester Road, this is a high-ceilinged two-part eaterie; invitingly dark in the way of the City’s grandest restaurants, like Bonds and the Mercer, which occupy former banks. In front is an oyster bar facing tall windows – it’s an elegant, spacious place to sample the range of farmed and wild Colchester oysters on offer. Our selection of Mourne Rock, Kumomoto (considered the aristocrats of the oyster world) and Blackwater wild tasted of the sea and went down a treat, especially with a glass of the good house champagne.

We moved next door to the compact downstairs dining room for dinner, which is where the “grill” part of the Door comes into play. City appetites – increased by long days sweating out the Eurozone crisis perhaps – will be satisfied by the 10oz hunk of melting Argentine fillet I sliced through. Those with a bigger meat craving can go for 12 oz. Or hey – go for a prime USDA Angus 16 oz rib-eye. That’ll sort you out – though I hear the Argentine beef is better here.

This is a decadent menu, really – seafood and beef together always seem slightly extravagant. In keeping with the theme of excess, after the oysters, I had a lobster salad before beef. Don’t bother – it was eye-wateringly salty. Luckily the two (yes, two) other starters made up for it: a generous heritage tomato salad popping with balsamic vinaigrette and calmed with mozzarella balls and a thick disc of goat’s cheese in leaves were lovely.

My friend kept with the light Italianate theme for mains and had Dorset lobster and truffle risotto with citrus nage, parmesan and chive crisp. The rice was firm and flavoursome, vitalised by its very well-chosen accoutrements. It was fresh and dynamic: a superb lunch choice.

There is a good choice of other mains, too, should neither seafood nor beef take your fancy. You’re not likely to go hungry with slow roasted Lancashire pork belly; grilled salt Marsh lamb steak or fricassee of Wiltshire corn fed – they’re served with good, veggie-worshipping accompaniments like shallot confit (lamb) and broad bean and mint butter (chicken).

Bulk up with sides, too: we had massive sweet potato wedges with sour cream, a buttered sweetcorn and pancetta mixture and spinach. We did a fair job on these but felt the need to save a tiny bit of space for a dessert of blueberry pie. Its sweet inky berries oozing out of the nut-brown pastry and topped with cream is a completely delicious way to end a meal here. Nothing else stood out, but if you like typical English desserts you’ll be fine.

Wines here are made a song and dance about – diners are able to peer through the glass-walled cellar from their seats. It didn’t look so spectacular to me but had a solid, manageable collection of New Worlds (no South African, sadly, as a SA pinotage would have been great with the beef) and Europe. Our rioja was lovely.

It’s hard to fault the Door: the prices are very reasonable (£16 or less for most mains), the food is generally very pleasing and the service, well, I don’t even remember it – which is the best kind.