A new look for Christopher’s, the financiers’ favourite joint

 
Julian Harris
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Just prepare for an overdose of protein

CHRISTOPHER’S
WHERE
18 Wellington St WC2E 7DD Tel: 020 7240 4222
FOOD Four stars
VALUE Three stars
ATMOSPHERE Three stars
Cost per person with wine: £100

THERE are few aspects of working life more annoying than the sudden intrusion of a fire drill. A few years ago I worked in an office in Covent Garden where this happened all the time. The chefs in the restaurant downstairs kept setting it off. I lost count of the number of times we gathered, shivering in the rain outside The Lion King, cursing the pyromaniacs who dwelled in the kitchens below.

When I got the chance to review this restaurant for City AM, a glint flickered in my eye. Probably both of my eyes. Finally, here was a chance to inflict pay-back on my tormentors. “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” I thought, chuckling to myself at the horrific pun.

Unfortunately, any hopes of catharsis were quashed by the time our starters arrived. Despite my best efforts to locate flaws, it became clear that Christopher’s is, in fact, rather good.

The opening course had my guest doing her best Gregg Wallace impression. “The tang of the grapefruit’s sweet bitterness, the salty savoury capers – and then cut through by the sharpness of the leaves – yes, it’s a risk to put grapefruit with scallops, but it really works,” she enthused. I nodded in agreement, reluctantly.

Reports of Christopher’s food will be little surprise to many folk in the Square Mile. Despite being located to the west of Fleet Street, it has been a popular retreat for both finance and media types for many years. In homage to the latter, there’s a cocktail named “Journalist” served in the newly-refurbished American art deco-style Martini bar. I’m assured that the Journalist does not contain poison.

Both the bar and restaurant recently closed while they underwent a major refurbishment. A large curled staircase leads up to a clean and modern yet comfortable dining room. The ambitious yellow and grey colour scheme impressed my guest. “Yes, I like it too,” I said, privately noting how it reminded me of Arsenal’s away kit circa 2006. As her eyes wandered, reading the room, the similarity allowed me to reminisce over Thierry Henry’s sublime solo effort during that season’s 1-0 victory against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu…

Snapping back to the present, we moved on to lobster-heavy main courses, ordering the surf ‘n’ turf burger and one whole lobster, along with a mac ‘n’ cheese and some fries on the side. Sampling a chunk of naked lobster, untouched by the garlic butter, it is clear that this is a well-sourced water-beast. It does what it says on the shell; tasting enough of the sea but with a meaty texture, it trumps the lobster offered by some of Christopher’s rival establishments.

The mac ‘n’ cheese and burger are by no means the best around, but they do the trick, drawing you into the comfort of a familiar meal. That’s the point of this place: familiarity and comfort are prized, with the aim being to provide a better-quality, slightly pricier version of dishes you already know.

This is let down only by the fries, which – attempting to be a truffle and parmesan concoction – forget what it is to be a good chip, and thus appear out of place on a table where the other components are just happy to be themselves.

One warning: the main courses can become quite a challenge, containing amounts of protein generous enough to please the most zealous of body-builders. Suddenly the slight and un-filling size of the starters makes sense, and I started to wish I’d declined the bread earlier on.

No comfort meal is complete without dessert – and here there is more to satisfy any homesick Americans. There is a peanut butter, jelly and chocolate sandwich, as well as a New York vanilla cheesecake. Even mom’s baking is represented in the apple & blueberry cobbler. I would recommend zoning in on the pecan maple pie, which is accompanied by a modish salted caramel ice cream – an obligatory ingredient on today’s menus. At £20 for two, the sharing dessert plate is a suitably indulgent way of ending your evening.

My advice regarding Christopher’s is as follows: go there for a drink some time. Book a table and have a bite to eat. Just do not, under any circumstances, rent one of the offices upstairs.