Covent Garden, London
Pre-theatre dining can be tricky to negotiate. There’s the issue of speed, of course, and the general fear of being caught in a tourist trap with some prix fixe averageness. But there’s also the awareness that certain cuisines, however delicious, are not necessarily audience-friendly: after all, how would you feel if your neighbour was breathing second hand garlic and/or spice fumes over you for three hours? Precisely.
That said, London is certainly dotted with decent options and an excuse to return to the ticks-all-the-boxes mild opulence of Christopher’s is never a bad thing.
Any restaurant that’s survived the London market for over a quarter of a century must be doing something right and it doesn’t take long to work out the Christopher’s formula. Here’s the Martini Bar. There’s the well-lit, elegant Dining Room. And here’s a list of nice things you want to eat that we’ll cook rather well. Ta dah. The fact that it’s all set in a charming Grade II listed building – that once housed London’s first licensed casino – is yet more icing on an already enjoyable cake, ditto the glorious staircase that you get to waft down, Hollywood-style, on your way out.
Food leans towards American grill classics with a small nod to Europe – hello Iberico pork chop – and a much smaller nod to vegetarians. Staff are sweetly efficient and aware of starting times and their proximity to The Strand (and, particularly, The Lion King opposite) should you want to dive in to the à la carte, but then the pre-theatre/set lunch menu is very decent and good value – two courses £22, three for £26 – and, like the main menu, dotted with appealing dishes.
Serrano ham – with black figs, sorrel, honey cress, shaved cauliflower – kicked things off happily, although the sunchoke and beetroot salad opposite probably edged it in terms of texture, taste and smug healthy bragging rights. USDA bavette steak (£5 supplement) comes lightly barbecue rubbed as if to prove its origins, with watercress and chunky fries. No prizes for originality, but a thumbs up for execution – similarly the grilled lamb rump and, particularly, the accompanying parsley root cream and carrot and cumin confit. White chocolate pannacotta with Zinfandel poached pears slipped down very easily and we made curtain up.
Réaumur, Paris, France
Elsewhere on this page you’ll find American food in London and French food in New York. So here’s American and British food in Paris. Given that pre-theatre dining in Paris is shunned in favour of post-theatre, we’ve gone the other way with this terrific, global brunch-themed, no reservations diner in the 2nd arrondissement. Forget weekends though, unless you really like queuing – Twinkie’s is bijou.
db Bistro Moderne
Broadway, Manhattan, New York
The “db” stands for Daniel Boulud, a name synonymous with the beautifully executed and crowd-pleasing. This Midtown outpost, handily located for the Great White Way, shows why. Bistro classics rub shoulders with Boulud’s celebrated burgers. The biggest danger is ordering another glass, and foregoing the show.