Handily located near St Paul’s, a rare new-build restaurant (Norman Foster) offering surprising good Italian food on a number of levels.
e weren’t frankly expecting much from this new City Italian – an offshoot of a fashionable Chelsea restaurant whose main virtue we’ve always thought to be its nicely-located al fresco tables.
First impressions, however, are certainly impressive. It’s still a bit of a shock to see a new-build restaurant in the heart of London, and this one – just off Cheapside – is a noble affair too (Milord Foster). On three floors, it has – homage à Chelsea – a nice terrace, and also a view of an intriguing water feature.
Even though it’s a new build, the configuration of the building is far from perfect: food arrives via dumb waiters, as seen in clapped-out ’70s restaurants everywhere. If you're trying to provide City dining on three floors, though, one can appreciate that three kitchens might seem a little extravagant.
We certainly felt extravagant, for once, as we pressed on through the banking plebeians clustering around the rather nice tables outside and on the ground floor, on up to fine-dine at the very top of the building. Walk up, though? Oh no, this is an energy-guzzling building where you have to use the lift, as the staircase is, we were told, not fit for use for anything other than emergencies. Is that the architect‘s fault or the finishing? We’ve noted before how bizarrely poorly thought-out Foster’s restaurants can seem to be when it comes to inter-storey travel.
Up on the top floor, the feeling is unfinished, as if in a light and bright post-industrial space. The ducting is visible. The walls are painted, but just concrete. You can argue that this seems rather odd: why have a swanky new building and not finish it? In some senses, however, it is clearly sensible. It keeps costs down, makes fewer environmental demands, and allows the food to outshine the décor.
Perhaps it was the undemanding setting, but we were actually surprised by how good the food was. In a three course meal for one, only the bread (focaccia) tended to humdrum. Everything else – crab, pollock, cheesecake – was attractively presented and rendered to a very high standard, and the coffee was good too. It’s become fashionable in some critical circles to snipe at pollock – “you can see why it’s sustainable”, ho ho – but our bit of fish was as good as any we’ve had this year.
Adopting, as ever, the brace position for the arrival of a City bill, we were pleasantly surprised when the reckoning (including a glass of wine) came to £45. For decent cooking at those sorts of prices, in the heart of the Square Mile, we think we’re prepared to forego the wallpaper.