Where shall we meet in the City?

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The Independent Culture
As the Eighties fade into distant memory, lunch, or at least Lunch Lite, the lo-cal, lo-alcohol alternative, is coming back to the City. Which is good news for restaurateurs - after all, the square mile concentrates high-income punters for the duration of the week. So the area has become a prime spot for openings, and Harvey Nicks has followed suit.

Their new outlet, Prism, opened on 26 April. Appropriately, the restaurant is in the converted premises of the Bank of New York, an elegant space with wonderful acoustics that allows people to discuss their finances in loud voices without sharing them with everyone else.

There's a lovely, warm style bar in the basement with moleskin leather banquettes, an adventurous array of cocktails and a pleasantly un-braying feel. If there's a criticism to be made, it's that the whole place has been geared to feeding people in the lunchtime rush and doesn't slow down in the evening: it can be quite startling to get your starter before you've had a chance to drink more than a couple of sips of wine.

Chef Simon Shaw (above) has come down from the Fourth Floor in Leeds, and seems to be enjoying the transition. Starters at pounds 6.50-pounds 12.50 and mains at pounds 9.50-pounds 14.50 cover a good range of flavours. A tempura of Whitby cod with pea puree was a clever twist, and a croustade of mushroom duxelle had a lovely runny poached egg to mash into the pastry. There's sausage and mash for the diehard blokes in your party (Jeremy Clarkson was in when we were), but we had peppered haddock and brandade cake with mustard seed sauce, and a cheering combination of seared scallops with Chinese duck dumpling, chilli and soy. All very light, wholesome and energy-promoting. Fortunately, as you would expect from a Northern chef, the chips we had on the side were excellent.

Prism, 147 Leadenhall St, London EC3 (0171-256 3888)



Alba 107 Whitecross St, London EC1 (0171-588 1798)

Suan Neo 31 Broadgate Circle, London EC2 (0171-256 5044)

Cantina del Ponte Butlers Wharf Building, 36c Shad Thames, London SE1 (0171-403 5403)