A few steps away from the iconic Lyceum theatre, lies an ornate, yet relatively inconspicuous Grade-II listed building, which, over the years, has served in a number of rather disparate roles. From its origins as a papier-mache factory in the early 1800s, to its spell as London’s first casino, this grand building has undergone as many transformations as the Jenner family, and since 1991, it’s been the home of Christopher’s Grill – one of London’s most eminent American restaurants.
For over twenty years, this highly-reputed establishment has embraced the seemingly oxymoronic notion of “American fine-dining”, and is often credited with having set the standard for other American-style eateries in the city. From premium cuts of steak to fresh seafood, Christopher’s has much to offer in the way of the All-American lunch and dinner, but the subject of our first visit, would be an All-American brunch. Halal chicken, lamb, and beef can be pre-ordered, but must be done so at least 48 hours in advance of your booking.
After settling into our British-sized seats, (God help any real Americans who choose to visit), I agonised over the chocolate brioche french toast and the french toast with roast peach, vanilla mascarpone and maple syrup, before settling for the latter. The justification being that peach is a fruit, and thus, I would obtain at least one of my five a day. (As you can obviously tell from this blog, I’m dedicated to healthy eating). The French toast arrived as three half-pieces, and all were soft and well-cooked, with an airy, almost sponge-like texture, which was surrounded by a slightly firmer crust. Each piece of toast was also pleasantly plain in flavour, thereby allowing the accompanying components to paint their own picture upon its blank canvas.
The maple syrup was of a good quality – evidently pure in nature, thick in consistency, and richly sweet, yet light in tone, and the french toast did not spare a moment of hesitation in soaking it all up. The roast peach meanwhile, was perfectly moist and sweet, but was so sparse in quantity that I had to ration it with each bite, (and like any greedy food blogger, I’m not very good at rationing food). The mascarpone was light and smooth in consistency, but it too was so scarce that it disappeared before I had a chance to realise that I had enjoyed it. This lack of proportionality meant that towards the end, the French toast became a little barren, and was rescued only by Steak’s charitable donation of the berry compote that accompanied her pancakes.
French toast with roast peach, mascarpone, and maple syrup
Steak’s selection from the “build your own pancake” menu included a helping of buckwheat pancakes, nutella, the aforementioned berry compote, and coconut yoghurt and cinnamon dust. The buckwheat pancakes possessed a soft and starchy texture, and a wonderfully clean and wholesome feel (which, in true American style, was instantly obliterated by the generous helping of nutella). The coconut yoghurt was smooth and creamy in consistency, and combined well with both the nutella and the pancakes, whilst the berry compote possessed a mild tang, but was otherwise very weak in flavour. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant addition to both the pancakes and to my French toast.
Buckwheat pancakes with nutella, berry compote, and coconut yoghurt.
Like a father on results day, I knew full well that I’d be utterly disappointed no matter what, but I needed a bitter brew to go with my sweet brunch. Aiming for a light brew, I ordered a filter coffee, which was evidently fresh, light, and refreshing, but fairly flat in tone and ever so slightly burnt.
Steak opted for a silver needle tea, which arrived in a Robocop-style tea diffuser. This white tea was light and refreshing, and carried mellow, lemon-like notes, and a green, earthy tone.
Silver needle tea
Value For Money: 3.5/5
The brioche french toast cost £8.00, and Steak’s customised buckwheat pancakes cost £12.00, whilst the silver needle tea cost £4.00, and the filter coffee came in at £3.00. Unknowingly, I had also agreed to a bottle of still water instead of tap water, (and promptly sobbed into my wallet afterwards), which cost £4.00, thus amounting to a total bill of £34.88, including service charge. As for the rest of the brunch menu, prices range from £4-£6 for simple, light items, (i.e granola), all the way to £18-£30 for a heavy breakfast steak. Breakfast smoothies cost around £6, whilst teas and coffees range from £3-£4. As for the a la carte lunch or dinner menu, starters range from £10-£16, steaks range from £24-£68, (depending on the breed of cattle and cut of beef you opt for), other mains range from £17-£30, whilst sides range from £4-£5, and desserts from £7-£9.
For a high-end establishment, Christopher’s falls well within financial expectations. Aside from the rather extortionate cups of coffee – (you’ll get double the calibre of coffee for half the price at nearby independent coffee shops), brunch items are of a high quality, and priced within reason. Whilst it very much depends on what you order, it’s unlikely that a brunch at Christopher’s will leave a ditch in your bank account – (though the same probably can’t be said for lunch or dinner. Stay tuned).
As well as being warm and welcoming, service at Christopher’s is prompt, efficient, and well co-ordinated. Staff members are, for the most part, attentive, (provided that you are willing to risk a restraining order by staring at them for a while), and you’re guaranteed to be well looked after.
As you walk into Christopher’s, you’ll be greeted by a modern, homely reception area, where your bags and coats will be promptly taken from you and held hostage in case you eat too much. You’ll then be told to head up the curved staircase, which is adorned with a set of large, cocoon-like light fixtures, whose silver curves and staggered placement add a glistening, vintage feel – almost as though you’re about to enter a 1930’s American ballroom. This feeling is short-lived however, as the dining room it leads to is crisp and clean-cut, with a European sense of styling. Whilst the staircase resembles a timepiece from the past, Christopher’s main dining area is contemporary and modern, and though the latter is by no means a negative, the two don’t quite marry up. But, since the staircase is not where you’ll be spending your meal, (unless you really tick one of the staff members off), let us focus on the dining area.
The main room is fairly large and relatively spacious, with a high, corniced ceiling, subtle, warm lighting, and a simple layout of modern, leather-laden chairs and cloth-covered tables. The room is adorned in simple colours – namely grey, dark purple, and mustard yellow, which come together to create a quintessential sense of British sensibility. The beauty of Christopher’s very much lies within this simplicity, and as a whole, it’s an elegant and attractive dining space that is perfect for any occasion.
The spacious environment and bustling nature of the dining room help to create an ambience that is lively, yet comfortable. Whilst other patrons come and go and tables turn over relatively quickly, there is no overwhelming sense of urgency at Christopher’s, which allows you to fully absorb the surroundings and enjoy the dining experience, before moving on with your empty life.
If the United States of America and Great Britain consider themselves to be “cousins”, then somewhere in the world, there is probably a South-Asian auntie trying to join them in holy matrimony. She may however, already have succeeded, and Christopher’s Grill may just be the star child of this dubious cousin-marriage. Serving clean-cut American cuisine in a refined, European setting, Christopher’s is an establishment that takes the best aspects of both sides of the Atlantic, and brings them together into a single, unified package. Whether you wish to dive into a quick brunch, or savour a luxurious dinner for a special occasion, Christopher’s is one esteemed eatery that is well worth your consideration.
Address: 18 Wellington St, London WC2E 7DD
Telephone: 0207 240 4222