Restaurants; Grand Canyon

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The Independent Culture
Canyon serves the best American breakfast this side of the pond, says Vivienne Heller

Huevos rancheros - now there are two words to warm a traveller's heart. Such rough American fare can be found, rather incongruously, in refined Richmond, at Canyon. This chic but cheerful restaurant - a far cry from its unsmiling sibling Dakota, in Notting Hill - opened last August, just a short stroll from Richmond Bridge.

My companion on an American road-trip last year joined me at one of the terrace tables, in a rock garden that owed less to any canyon I've seen - no giant millipedes or sticky dust - than to a Ground Force garden makeover using pebbles and cacti for a low-maintenance look. It was a weirdly prehistoric playground for Canyon's toddler contingent, whose frequent howls confirmed that the boulders weren't fibreglass after all.

Nor was there anything fake about the brunch menu. It was so fabulously American that Claire and I were swept away on a tide of nostalgia, and ordered most of it. We started with pan-fried pumpkin and ricotta wedges: two bread-crumbed doorstops on a bed of rocket. They were rescued from unrelenting stodginess by the crunchy coating and sharp salsa sauce. Claire thought them a little bland; I thought them heavenly, and polished off a huge portion.

Between courses, we virtuously sipped exotic fruit juices: who needs alcohol with soft drinks like these? Claire enjoyed a kiwi, grape and apple juice, while I downed a kiwi and pink-grapefruit number, accompanied by slices of delicious chocolate bread.

Mains were eggs florentine and a "south-west breakfast", served with a divine, all-American smile. Hearts aflutter, we dived straight in. My perfect poached egg spilled sunshine over a mound of spinach and muffin before mingling with the hollandaise. It was a truly beautiful sight, and tasted as good as it looked. Claire was in raptures over her breakfast, deeming her portion of grilled chorizo just enough to complement rather than overpower the other delights: a slightly singed hunk of chilli toast, a lava flow of black beans, and golden scrambled eggs.

No American brunch, however huge, would be complete without blueberry pancakes. We ordered just one... thank goodness. It was colossal, a frisbee of a pancake with a swirl of spiced butter and a crispy fringe - a sort of deflated sponge pudding with clafoutis aspirations.

Our time was up. Canyon operates a shift service for meals, though, unlike most other restaurants, it never made us feel the slightest bit rushed. Shame - I could have wallowed in the sun with one of their "bottomless" filter coffees all day. But we would have spared others the marvellous experience of brunch here. There's democracy for you.

Riverside, Richmond, Surrey (0181-948 2944)

AMERICAN STARS

Christophers 18 Wellington St, WC2 (0171-240 4222). Trendy joint for upmarket fare

Cactus Blue 86 Fulham Rd, SW3 (0171-823 7858). Superb food in colourful surroundings

Maxwell's 8-9 St James' St, WC2 (0171-836 0303) Prime location for reliable brunch

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