THE PALM: CROSSING OVER FOR A LOT OF SILVER
DH recently had an impromptu tasting of Steaks at Goodman, the Russian owned Steakhouse just off Regent Street. Manager David Strauss has not been idle since our last visit and now the restaurant is a popular destination for the Hedgies and the (former) BSDs of the City who are contenting themselves these days with 1K Steaks and 1K bottles of wine in lieu of new Ferraris and Chalets in Verbier.
During our mini-vertical tasting we had a USDA Rib Eye, a dry-aged bone-in Sirloin and a Grain-finished Rib (the latter two from Jack O’Shea’s). In our humble opinion the USDA meat came well behind the other two. Still, I can accept that those four-letters will be enough of a draw for Americans meat-eaters in London, even if the product itself pales in comparison to our homegrown product.
Another draw for our friends from across the pond might be the latest Steakhouse to hit London, The Palm, which is in the vanguard of an expected influx of other US-based Steakhouses. So don’t be surprised to see a Smith and Wollensky, a Ruth’s Chris or a Morton’s in London over the next few years.
It seems The Palm has already got plenty of fans – on my visit on the official opening day (they’d already had a soft opening) the joint was fully booked. Even better for them, the restaurant seems to have attracted the sort of clientele that don’t find the prices at all off-putting, and some of the prices are very off-putting. Mind you, the restaurant is located in the heart of Belgravia where a year ago I commented upon the rich dickheads that seem to infect the place. Let’s hope bad luck hasn’t befallen them over the past year, eh ?
I’d had a little daydream before I visited. A sort of visualisation of me visiting the perfect Steakhouse: the clubby interior, the crisp white tablecloths. Sipping an icy Dry Martini while my Porterhouse was seared at a ferociously high temperature. Interspersing bites of my bloody steak, dipped in béarnaise, with mouthfuls of crisp frites and gulps of a nice Rioja. Of course the reality was much more prosaic.
There appears to be a definite hierarchy to the seating at The Palm. VIPs are herded into a dimly lit, clubby looking area with banquettes, Siberia is definitely at the front near the bar. I was in the ‘undecided’ zone, lit by daylight so I could see what I was eating but which made the place look a little tacky and chain-like (funny, that).
You can sometimes deduce a restaurant’s intent by the way they handle the small things. The Palm is not so great at the small things. The butter for the bread had come straight from the fridge so that even the bowl it was in was ice-cold. It was colder though than my Dry Martini which seemed to have been made by someone who knew how to make one, theoretically, but had never actually made one before. It lacked the visceral thwack that a good DM should deliver.
There was further disappointment with the menu which was missing all the signature Shrimp and Clam dishes although the reason given – the chef couldn’t get any shellfish of the appropriate quality – seemed reasonable enough. Less reasonable was the explanation for such a poor range of Steaks (no Porterhouse, nothing on the bone) compared to the US branches, which was something along the lines of we’ve just opened. Er, okay and the problem is what exactly ?
A starter plate of Calamari Fritti was surprisingly good – well the main ingredient was, being nicely cooked and tender. There was a rather desultory, under-dressed salad of Iceberg Lettuce underneath and a Cocktail sauce on the side that needed a good kick up the backside but it was a harmless enough way to begin a meal. All the starters are available in half-portions as are the sides so the prices for those dishes are less scary than they look.
The price of my wet-aged Sirloin Steak was very scary. Scary in that there wasn’t one. Price On Application usually means if you have to ask, Work’us, you can’t afford it. It was the only Steak available which was of a reasonable size so I went for it anyway. It was £69 before service – hence I shall be living off mushy peas for the foreseeable future.
So what does £69 get you in Steak Terms ? Well, not a properly cooked Steak for starters. It was 510g of what looked like a New York Strip, rather than a Sirloin, which been cooked Medium-Rare to Medium rather than Black and Blue as requested. As I examined my steak from all angles the waiter noticed it wasn’t right and immediately offered get another one cooked.
The next attempt was worse than the first one as this time the steak had hardly any char at all. They offered to cook yet another steak but given that they’d had two shots I told them not to bother. In the end they took it off the bill but I put nearly all of it back as a tip for the very good service. And what about the steak itself ? Well, it was soft and dull and didn’t taste very aged at all. Even in its previous version I think I would have been underwhelmed.
Given the main event was so disappointing I won’t go on about the soft skin-on chips or the creamed spinach that should have at least spoken of those two ingredients. I will, however, mention the service again which was, in the US way, friendly, courteous and helpful. Everyone including the GM seemed genuinely perturbed that I hadn’t had a good steak but in the end if they can’t deliver on their raison d'être then they’re not much use to me. The bigwigs of the surrounding Embassies will love it. Established places, like Hawksmoor and Goodman shouldn’t be quaking in their boots just yet.
PS The last picture is my interpretation of a properly cooked steak