Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Palm, Belgravia - Exceptional service and steaks to match!

I’ve never been so looked after in a restaurant.  Ever.  And it wasn’t just because we were there reviewing; every single table in The Palm on the night we visited, were receiving exactly the same level of service and attention.

Accompanying me for this review was my friend Rudi.  He’s a big South African guy and he knows his steak!  And I thought he’d be the perfect critic.  As it turned out, there was very little to criticise.

The Palm is a grand old place - full of character and charm, with a big bar area at the front for New York style cocktails (take advantage of their brilliant happy hours where the time determines what you pay…)   There’s tables and booths at the back, a separate room which is opened on busier nights and a beautiful downstairs area which can be hired out for private parties. 

Originally supposed to be named after the owners’ hometown of Parma, the owners of The Palm were misheard when registering the company and so it was given the name it goes by today – run by the 4th generation Bozzi and Ganzi families and almost 90 years later, with well over 20 restaurants across America, but only one here in London.

Extremely welcoming from the offset, the Supervisor Ezio showed us to our booth table at the back of the restaurant…  The booths are big!  Plenty room for 4, and probably enough room for 6 – perfect for taking clients out to dinner and equally as good for a private or intimate meal with your friends or partner.

Our waiter Alex greeted us like an old friend (even though we’d obviously never met him before!)  A lovely and knowledgeable guy who knew everything there was to know about the different cuts of corn fed US steak, and even more about the wines – a charming connoisseur when it came to the Californian reds!

On his recommendation, we chose a Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, from the Stone Barn Vineyards near Napa Valley.  Filtered and decantered, this was a delicious red bursting with plum, blackberry and vanilla.  Highly recommended.

After much deliberation over which steaks to order, (they were brought to our table and all looked soooooo good…), I went for a medium cooked Fillet Mignon.  Rudi chose the medium rare New York Steak.  And after placing our orders, we had a nice amount of time in which to supp our wine and snack on a delicious basket of flat breads, raisin breads and baguette.

This also gave us plenty of time to admire the quirky charicatures on the walls, made up of a mixture of celebrity faces and restaurant members.  We were later told that all members of the 837 Club (which is £25 to join and gives you £25 off your next meal), are also given points each time you dine.  If you reach 15000 points, you’re comissioned a picture on the wall!  How cool is that?!  Alex also told us that the painted wall tradition dates back to the 1920’s when Bozzi and Ganzi opened the first restaurant in Manhattan and couldn’t afford to decorate it.  In an attempt to add some character, their large clientele of cartoonists would often draw on the walls in exchange for their suppers.

While marvelling over all of these charming tales, our starters arrived…  Rudi ordered a Carpaccio with rocket and parmesan.  I had the Lobster Bisque.  Wow.  Absolutely the best bisque I have ever tasted.  Smooth, creamy and bursting with flavour.  Simply divine.  In fact so good, that I didn’t possibly think our steaks could match up…We shouldn’t have worried though, they most certainly did!

I’d asked for my Mignon to be cooked ‘Pittsburgh’ style – meaning it had been cooked at a very high temperature to create that charred burned effect on the outside, while the inside was still the medium I’d asked for!  What a great decision that was.  Accompanied by spinach, green veg and all 4 complimentary sauces – hollandaise, bĂ©arnaise, chimichuri and peppercorn; it was a really satisfying and mouthwatering meal. Rudi devoured his steak too.  And having tasted some good steaks in his time, he maintained that his New Yorker was ‘pretty amazing’.

Surely no room for desert then?!!  Well… No.  Not really.  But that was before we’d clapped eye on the the huge hunks of cheesecake and carrot cake. The carrot cake.  You have to try it to believe it.  A legendary wedge of pure delight.  Sticky and moist, this has to be the best ever.  I challenge anyone to find me a better one!  Even Rudi, (who is a guy and guys don’t ‘do’ cake), was in total agreement with me on this one…

And so, The Palm, an extremely memorable meal.  Wonderful staff, charming stories, and this philosophy: ‘Treat guests like family, serve great food, and always exceed expectations’. 

I’d say they deliver on every level.  And just a couple of thousand points to go before I can get my face on that wall.  Better book in again soon…


Henley Royal Regatta 2013

One of my favourite weekend’s of the year.  Men in blazers.  Rowers, boats, yachts, lots of pretty dresses, champagne, champagne and even more champagne.

The dress dilemma started weeks before.  The 4 of us who’d been planning the weekend since 4 July 2012, left it until the week of the Regatta to find outfits.  There had been fashion shows showcasing the entire contents of our wardrobes at our apartment for a good 3 nights before.  Leonie and I didn’t even end up packing any of the dresses we’d been parading around our front room.  Ah well, what we’d packed would have to do.  Especially seeing as there was little room for clothes because the Tattinger bottles took priority.  Oh, and the sparkly pink and purple champagne flutes.  (Didn’t wanna be forgetting those..)

As last minute as ever, we arranged to meet at Paddington 10 minutes before the train departed.  That allowed approximately 7 minutes to grab food (and more drink) from M&S, and 3 minutes to make it to the platform furtherest away.  Our nails we summised, we do on the train, while supping on a bottle of fizz.  Not.  Last on the train, we were jammed in like sardines with another hundred Regatta go-ers.  Squashed up against the doors, a man with a bike attempted to get on.  Sylwi told him to get on his…

An hour and 20 minutes later (via a champagne incident at Twyford involving a crazy flying cork and a soaken wet dress (that’ll be me then), we arrived at our destination.  The Catherine Wheel hotel.  Which was also a Wetherspoons…  At £150 a night, not the cheapest stay, but hey didn’t they used to have rock bottom prices because they weren’t allowed music?!  This one definitely did play music.  Directly under our room and until 4am as we found out later…

Dresses on, champagne bottle number 2 gone and we made our way down to the Royal Enclosure.  What a beautiful day.  Almost 30 degrees by lunchtime, blue skies and sunshine – we couldn’t have hoped for better weather.  By the time we made it into our enclosure, it was time for afternoon tea.  Sandwiches, pimms, tea and cakes – absolutely delicious.

We decided after all that food to have a little sit down in the shade, where we bumped into another 2 of our friends.  Then we got chatting to a lovely guy called Andrew, who looked a little bit (a lot) like Barry Manilow.  We all decided to hit the Mahiki tent together where we managed to get through another 8 (8!!!) bottles of Veuve.  Oops.  That was to be my undoing…  8 bottles, 8pm, ermm bedtime.  But I struggled on until about 11.  Well done me!  Mahiki was awesome, from what I remember.  The girls told me it was anyway…

….I woke up on Saturday a little scared to open my eyes for fear of a really bad hangover.  I shouldn’t have worried.  (All that water must’ve helped).  With dress number 2 on, we were ready to do it all over again…  Which is exactly what we did.  Some more of our friends joined with a picnic.  Another glorious day and absolutely packed down by the river.  We considered trying out JuJu, Chinawhite and Chase, but Mahiki got the winning vote once again!  Sadly, the burger and steak van they’d  hired did not.  Massively long queues, no cheese left, no ketchup, and our ‘medium’ steaks were tough, chewy and overcooked.  A coconut grenade cocktail softened the blow.

Another fun day had by all and we made our way back to The Red Lion Hotel (which is a gorgeous place to stay right on the bridge).  We checked out a few bars in town, but after wearing heels all day, had resorted to flip flops… This did not bode well stood in a packed club surrounded by rowers who were all 6 foot plus.  We made it back with a hat we’d managed to acquire on the way.  And a pizza.  Classy, I know.

Sunday started with a delicious cooked breakfast at The Red Lion followed by a day right on the river watching the boat races and enjoying the sunshine, before catching our train home.  What a delightful weekend….

Here’s a few tips if you’re going next year:

-Book your hotel NOW!  Otherwise you won’t get one…

-Regatta Enclosure tickets come out in April and also go fast.. You can buy these on the website

-Afternoon tea can be paid for in advance – we paid £16 per head and it was well worth it – really nice food

-Decide in advance which club you fancy going to as some you have to buy tickets for beforehand… Chinawhite in particular

-Take heels and flip flops (even if you’re a boy) It can be a really longggggg walk back at the end of the night

-Always find a Barry Manilow lookalike.  This will provide you with amazing banter all day long (Awww Andrew we love you really…!)

-Finally, plan your outfit!!  Don’t leave it til the last minute like us! Grrrr….

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