10 Oct 2013 03:45pm

1776 at 1 Lombard Street

Love it or loathe it, one has to admit that the City does some things very well. Its imposing glass and steel edifices; brash, sharply-tailored bankers; and shabby, comfortable pubs have all been polished – or artfully distressed – to perfection. Something else that’s worth venturing into the Square Mile for is its hidden restaurant gems, with 1776 very much at the head of the discreet list.

Run the gauntlet of the pulsing, glamorously-lit, suit-filled bar at 1 Lombard Street, and you will find, tucked away at the back, 1776 – a select dining room reminiscent of a gentlemen’s club, pleasingly dim, with just the right number of tables to make it feel intimate but never empty.

Just the right number of tables to make it feel intimate but never empty

The sense that you have wandered into an exclusive retreat is perhaps no surprise, given that head chef Juri Ravagli is formerly of The Drones Club and Harry’s Bar. Accordingly, dining options include a silver service roast meat trolley, carved tableside. There’s an impressive tasting menu, and an a la carte version for those who prefer to choose their own dinner.

We were well pleased with our selection of asparagus and duck egg salad, crunchy and creamy by turns, and tuna tatare, which was meltingly fresh and scattered with crisp vegetables in tiny dice. Speck, that king of bacon, came wrapped around a fillet of fallow deer, accompanied by rhubarb compote, speaking of autumn days to come. Offerings may be traditional, but there’s no fish and chips on the menu here: instead the cod is black, and comes caramelised with ponzu sauce, root vegetables, pak choi and red cabbage. Infinitely superior, and ranking a proud second to that served at London’s best Japanese restaurant.

An interesting wine list, presented on a somewhat out of place iPad, has a select rather than extensive number by the glass, which includes the expected standards along with a couple of inspired extras. The Gruner-Veltliner was particularly good. Advice on wine matching is gently and intelligently offered, and was gratefully received.

Save room for dessert: the “trolley” is updated daily, and features childhood favourites with decadent twists. The sticky toffee pudding with crème anglaise was almost too good to bear. This is classic food given a light-handed update, and served in a charming setting.

Penelope Rance