There are plenty of perks that come with this job, but one of the best is the excitement of discovery and the feeling of exclusivity and, dare I say 'conquest', that comes with being the first person to try a new place.
Restaurants don't come much fresher than three days old, as 1776, the new restaurant at 1 Lombard Street was on the day my friend and I visited.
Drawing its name from the year that this beautifully restored Grade II listed former bank was first recorded (not any other significant date in history), 1776 is unmistakably City with a capital C. Large windows and light coloured wooden floors off set an interior which is true to its banking heritage. With no background music, and a clientele that is mostly male, suited and booted, and dining in rather hushed tones, 1776 has the ambiance of a hotel dining room. To offset the formality of the place, it deploys a touch of modernity in the form of a wine list that is available in an leather bound iPad.
The menu is classic, with dishes such as oysters with orange and ponzu and hand-carved patanegra, and steak tartare with carasau bread and quail eggs. The signature dishes of head chef, Juri Ravagli include: fillet of Black Angus with breadcrumb crust and garlic snails, pan fried black cod, pak choy and ponzu sauce, and Mazara El Vallo red prawns with carpaccio baby salad. We tried the duck egg salad and venison steak tartare to start, both of which were very good if not spectacular. For mains we went for the black cod and Angus beef with snails which did not live up to our expectations. The texture of the cod wasn't quite right and the flavours weren't big enough. While the beef was good, but the snails were a bit of a letdown. It was almost if they had been prepared for conservative rather the continental tastes. The chocolate and berry tarts for dessert were much better. Perfectly cooked bases with toppings that were rich but too sweet. We shared a bottle of Barolo, which was great.
The service was professional, although there were a couple of minor glitches. But perhaps I'm being harsh, and maybe it was down to first week nerves. Or maybe it's not always an advantage being among the first.