Tel: +44 (0)20 7240 4222
Address: 18 Wellington Street, WC2E 7DD
Cuisine Type: contemporary American
nearest tube station Covent Garden

Christopher’s in Covent Garden – one of a small group of London restaurants that includes The Enterprise in Walton Street – offers a taste of American cooking in surroundings that couldn’t be more English.

The Grade II listed building has been a casino (reputedly with bordello above) and a bank, and many of the splendid original features remain – in particular the stunningly elegant stone spiral staircase that leads to the main dining room on the first floor.

The room is huge – with high ceilings – but is warmed by hessian walls in bold colours (very 60s, now apparently ultra-fashionable once more) and by the friendly and attentive staff who pull off the clever trick of remaining unobtrusive at the same time.

“Based on the Grand Steak and Lobster restaurants of the United States, the chefs create contemporary American cooking”, says the website. But you don’t have to be a fan of either steak or lobster to enjoy the menu. It includes such treats as Maryland crab cakes, maple roasted parsnip soup with a Stilton beignet (a little savoury profiterole – delicious) and “Classic” Caesar salad as starters (£5.50 – £11). Nantucket lobster makes its appearance on the current menu only as the top-priced starter, in the form of lobster and prawn fritters with saffron mayo – tempting.

Missouri rub roasted belly of pork heads the list of grills (£15 – £23), served with a confit of sweet pepper, creamed corn and morels. Very good indeed. Steaks abound here – tartar, rib-eye, New York strip sirloin and fillet – each accompanied by good and interesting vegetables such as celeriac mash, roast chestnuts, buttermilk-fried onions…

I went for a choice from the main course list (£13.50 – £18) instead and was impressed by a mid-Western meatloaf with Monterey mash, thyme and wild mushroom jus. Not sure how it would go down in the mid-West – I doubt they’re big on “jus”, but I could be maligning them – but in any case I loved it. I couldn’t finish it though, as portions – while not, thank goodness, as large as in the US – are generous, and the extra vegetables that come for sharing (we had creamed spinach, sugar-snap peas and shoestring fries) are too good to ignore.

Be warned that puddings (mostly £6.50) are also hefty – Baked New York cheesecake, bread and butter pudding, an enormous chocolate brownie with chocolate chip ice cream – you get the picture.

The wine list is short but well chosen – not surprisingly mostly American, and in the range £13 – £30 unless you opt for champagne (French). Which you might just be tempted to do, because this is a fun and stylish place.

Christopher’s is in the heart of theatreland so there are also pre-and post-theatre menus that look excellent value, at £12.75 or £16.75 for two or three courses – and there are cocktails and bar meals in the chic and spacious downstairs bar. Might just have to pop back to try the crab cakes I nearly chose in the restaurant – served downstairs with red pepper mayo for £7.

– Helen Wright, 1/2004