I’ve a relative newb when it comes to twitter – I’ve always been aware of it but never actually used it until recently. Warning – Twitter is bloody addictive and a considerable amount of my day is devoted to catching up on the ridiculous number of tweets out there. Anyways, one of the great side benefits to this minor obsession is that occasionally I discover a raffle/giveaway/competition where you just need to retweet a post to enter. It was through this that I won a couple of free places at Palm London’s Byron Wine Dinner – otherwise I’m not sure I’d have ever discovered the delicious food this Belgravia restaurant cooks up!
In fact, I was meeting a friend who I had pulled in at the last minute to be my dining buddy. However, neither of us are posh enough to frequent area and knew nothing (and I mean nothing!) about drink options around. On top of that, it was one of London’s standard windy and rainy “spring” days so we opted to just meet at the restaurant itself.
The classy oasis that is the bar was a far cry from the grey maelstrom swirling around outside. This has a proper old school feel to it with dark woods, solid powerful glassware, and a pretty impressive range of spirits behind the bar. It has that feel of a place from the 1950s where men in suits would discuss worldly matters over a glass of whiskey and a thick cigar. In short, think Mad Men with a bit of the English Gentlemen’s club (not the Spearmint Rhino variety) with a dash of Al Capone thrown in for good measure.
Alright, you’ve made it – what to eat?
Well since we were here for a set Wine Dinner, the menu was chosen for us but included some various canapés, a goat cheese and beetroot salad to start, a middle course of jumbo shrimp and seafood bouillabaisse, and hearty main of NY Sirloin. The real star of the show was the steak which took my expectations and then knocked them out of the park.
Huh? That’s it? We wanted to hear about the food!
Oh fine, if you insist. The canapés were tasty with the smoked fish being my personal favourite although the lightly fried beef was also quite popular. They were more than generous with coming around repeatedly so I was in danger of filling up before the meal even began!
The salad was composed of meringue-shaped dollops of goat cheese mousse over thinly sliced and lightly cured beetroot. I confess that beetroot usually has an unpleasant earthy taste to my (genetics, sadly, do not want me to eat this veggie) but this preparation was almost sweet and neatly cut through the richness of the goat cheese.
The bouillabaisse was incredible (although I may have let it go cold listening to the wine guy talk) with bold spicy flavours and tender seafood. The jumbo prawn was cooked perfectly and seasoned with just enough salt for me. I also managed to snag the last bread roll to sop it all up which was another win.
Now we get to the steak. As you’ve heard me say before, I’m very hesitant ordering a steak when I go out, particularly in restaurants where steak isn’t their raison d’etre. Yet, Palm London managed to smash through my fears with one helluva good steak. The first point in their favour was when they actually asked each diner how they like their steak cooked. Too often restaurants will mass cook the steak to the same medium-ish level when serving large groups, but not at the Palm. The second plus point was when the steak came out exactly as ordered! I really enjoyed the beefy taste of the meat (US corn fed beef aged for 45 days) and the balance of textures between the crunch of the seared crust and the tender juiciness of the interior flesh was perfect. This was one of the best steaks I’ve had in London to date and only narrowly beat by the bone-in rib eye from Goodmans or the T-Bone from HawkAir.
I’m ashamed to say that I don’t clearly recall the dessert beyond the fact it didn’t have chocolate. I believe it was a deconstructed strawberry shortcake. Nothing wrong with it, but just my personal tastes lean towards chocolate fondants or sticky toffee puddings to cap such a meal. We were graced with a glass of limoncello that did pair nicely with the dessert (or if it could have been my buzz by that point).
How about a drink?
Ah yes, I should mention the wines. The Wine Dinner was sponsored by Byron wines from California. We had two white wines with the salad and the bouillabaisse and a two reds with the steak. I promise to update with a few more thoughts once I find my notes, but in general I found all to be quite easy to drink both with food and on their own. There was a Santa Maria Byron red with the steak that was my kind of wine – full heavy red fruits, a bit of slow burning spice, and a dry tannic finish. It balanced out the fattiness of the steak and enhanced the meat’s flavour.
The only thing that would have really topped off the experience was a good old fashioned – so we headed (on the recommendation of the Palm’s Sales Manager) to the Jumeirah Hotel bar around the corner. Brilliant bar, but that’s a story for later.
Worth the dosh?
Well I can’t quite say given that I don’t know the prices and we had it all for free. So let’s compromise by estimating what I would be willing to pay for each dish. The salad was a bit too large for a starter (and not my thing) so let’s say £8 as a starter. However, for those more vegetable inclined, it would make a good mainstay of a meal so perhaps up to £12-15 if you were going down that road.
The bouillabaisse was very tasty although could not stand on its own without some more carbs. I’d price it at £15 given the quality of the seafood.
Steakwise, it was excellent and a good sized portion (maybe around 450g?). Given the atmosphere and quality of the food, I’d go for around £30 with £3-5 for a side of chips and sauce. Perhaps I should go look up the menu there and see what they actually price everything – the online one is price-free. I guess that says something about the target market – if you have to ask, you probably shouldn’t be there. Not that I mind, it’s top class food and for that I’m always willing to pay a bit extra.
Find Palm London here
1 Pont St
London, SW1X 9EJ
020 7201 0710