Test Drives

Test Driving the revamped Christopher's in Covent GardenWhat can you tell us about Christopher’s?

Housed in a grand Grade II listed building and spread across three floors, Christopher’s grill restaurant has been serving up high-end American classics since it was originally opened in 1991. Following the most successful December in the restaurant’s history in 2012, Christopher’s Director Anika Paul decided it was time to give the interiors and menus a facelift.

Our visit last week coincided with the official re-opening, following a three month refurbishment including the lower floor ‘Club Room’ (a self-contained events space comprising a staffed bar, tailored menus and 40 seat dining room), the Art Deco-inspired Martini Bar on the ground floor and elegant, mustard and grey dining room upstairs. The menu, developed by long-standing Head Chef Francis Agyepong, combines plates from the restaurant's past with contemporary dishes from across the Americas – all designed to show that this cuisine “goes way beyond steaks and burgers.”

Where is it?

At the Waterloo Bridge edge of Covent Garden on the corner of Wellington and Exeter Street, and within spitting distance of the Lyceum Theatre.

Where should I sit?

The seating in the dining room has apparently been designed to eradicate any ‘bad’ tables but we still think the best ones lie in the light-filled, side room (particularly for daytime dining) which afford the best views across Waterloo Bridge. Though we were also fond of a small banquette in the far corner and a much larger circular one in the centre (perfect for dinner à deux or a large lunch with friends respectively).   

Where should I meet up with friends?

It would be rude not to indulge in a pre-dinner tipple at Christopher’s sleek Martini Bar which is a gold-edged triumph of art deco glamour. As one would expect from a serious drinking parlour, the cocktail list is extensive - veering between the old timers, new blends and a dedicated selection of Martinis. For those averse to mounting the sweeping staircase for fine dining, there’s a more casual bar menu including Po’Boys, Burgers and small plates for sharing starting at £4. You can book too, making it an increasing rarity in London’s current ‘walk in’ culture.  

For drinks if you weren't meeting here, the choices are endless. You could go for a ‘Diamond Fizz’ (a heady blend of gin, prosecco and lemon) at nearby Mishkins, a glass of sherry at the always buzzy Opera Tavern or, if you’re feeling particularly decadent, The Savoy’s American Bar is just a few minutes walk down The Strand.

Is bread included?

Damn sure is it. A crisply-dressed waiter will be upon you with a bread basket and tongs before you even have the chance to ponder the question. Which is lucky as your mind will be consumed with deciding which of the four exceptional loaves to choose from. We went with a slice flecked with sweet sun dried tomatoes straight out of the Mediterranean (not to mention the oven) and a dark brown hunk of malty granary. Both were equally delicious. 

What should I eat?

As Christopher’s menu sets out to showcase the breadth of choice in American cuisine, it is (understandably) fairly extensive. It’s also fairly expensive, with the cheapest starter coming in at around £11 and the cheapest main around £16.

To start there’s a choice of hot dishes, salads, pastas and risottos, as well as a ‘raw bar’. From the latter we sampled delicate slices of scallop ceviche served with piquant dots of red grapefruit and softly ripe wedges of avocado. And, from the former, an exuberantly-spiced Maryland Crab Cake doused in red pepper mayo garnished simply with rocket (or as the American’s have it, ‘arugula’) and a punchy dot of chilli jam.

Though there are some great fish dishes on the menu, this is an American grill restaurant so, for us, meat has to be part of the equation (preferably red). We went for the Prime Rib-eye (from 30-day-aged Black Angus cattle bred in Kansas), served medium rare with a coronary-inducing bernaise; and pink-centered cutlets of cumin and paprika-rubbed lamb with pork-rich Boston Beans, an intense lamb tamale served in its corn husk and palate-lifting slivers of sweet papaya. Sides of model-thin fries with shavings of truffle and sticky baked carrots doused in vinegar were great, but the butter-drenched mash topped with melting layer of golden brown cheddar (which we’re still fixating on days later) is reason to go back alone.

The claggy New York Cheesecake with mean layer of biscuit bottom was the only real bum note of the meal. Better was a dense maple pie packed with crunchy sugared pecans, served with a pitch perfect salted caramel ice cream.

What about drinks?

Between charming the socks off every table, the head waiter recommended a bottle of Argentinian Malbec (Malbec "Cuatro Manos" Vincent Wallard, Mendoza, Argentina) which was rich in fruit, dark with tannin and generally worked well with our menu choices – particularly the meaty mains. As with the menu, the drinks list is extensive and includes wines from The Americas, as well as Europe and the rest of the world.

We declined the offer of a dessert martini for fear of developing diabetes (after the mash and bernaise, avoiding a coronary was quite enough), and opted for fresh mint tea instead - prettily presented in individual, transparent tea pots.

Overall thoughts?

Despite not having seen its previous incarnation, we found it impossible not to be charmed by the new-look Christopher’s – from the dramatic, winding staircase and the genuinely beautiful Martini Bar, to Agyepong’s updated menu taking diners on a genteel trip across the good ol’ US of A.  Sometimes the worry with largish restaurants such as this is how they can fill them night after night because no one wants to sit in an empty dining room, no matter how grand (imagine The Wolseley without the people). And we do wonder, with the likes of The Delaunay and Balthazar round the corner, coupled with the (steepish) price point, if they will manage it. But, if they do maintain the re-opening buzz, make a few tweaks in the kitchen and keep the loyal following built up over the past 20 odd years, those other dames better look out.

Christopher’s is located at 18 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7DD. To book call 0207 2404 222 or email reservations@christophersgrill.com

Find out more about Christopher's

Prices were correct at time of writing. Hot Dinners were invited to eat at Chrisotpher's.

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