Words by Su-Lin Ong
Corn fed, 35-day aged USDA prime beef is a tiny quarter of one percent of the world’s beef. This magnificently marbled meat is freighted from the US, and some of it lands in the hands of Tom Hixson & Co, a legend of Smithfield Market. Tom is with us, bristling with butchery banter about the New York strip and boneless rib-eye which is soon to end up on my plate. There’s no choice; it’s both or both.
This is beef with character, florid colours and rippling textures. Tonight’s meat will surely have a richly rewarding ending.
The Palm London is part of a group of American restaurants which were founded in the ’20s by Italian immigrants who wanted to name their venture after their hometown of Palma. A clerical error resulted from a misunderstanding of their accents and led to the name The Palm being registered for ever after.
Imagine yourself in a classic American steak house, but this one is in the hushed enclave of Belgravia. Here, the typical endless dark wood is livened up by black and white photos and caricatures stemming from traditions that artists paid their tab by painting a portrait. The real surprise is a wall of breezy, colourful original Matisse prints.
Step into the kitchen and you are hit with a tremendous, blasting heat. Blame the broiler. Chef Spencer Westcott explains that it cooks steaks to perfection at 1300 degrees centigrade. This is no workplace for anyone who gets hot under the collar. His brigade look pretty chilled and calm; as cool as our sharply suited dinner hosts Mauricio and Saimir.
Canapés of beef are followed by a bite of meltingly tender sliders – which we greedily ask for, despite knowing there is a lot more beef on its way. Refreshed by a crisp Caesar salad, we tuck into the main event. The aromas of our USDA prime New York strip and boneless rib-eye are buttery and caramelised, and the first bite reveals mature flavours and unbelievable tenderness. Smoked garlic seasons the veg, but béarnaise, brandy & peppercorn, and chimichurri sauces edge the steaks into the realm of over indulgence – to me, these detract from the pure beef flavours.
The main tool of dinner is an item of lust. It’s a heavyweight knife which sits balanced in the hand, and whose blade simply slides through the steak.
Dinner closes with the sharp refreshing bite from new season rhubarb, and a delicate ginger ice to lighten up a mascarpone cheesecake with peanut praline.
The effervescent chat from Mauricio makes the evening race along. I can’t imagine any dull dinner with Mauricio around.
I’ve planned my next two eats here. The Nova Scotia lobsters and cocktails will be a must – getting messy at the dining bar. And there is my mission to tackle that 1kg Tomahawk steak, or a night of Napa Valley wine feasting.
Sometime soon I’ll try to snaffle one of those handsome knives. Can’t call myself a steak eater without one.
Santa Celina Pinot Gris Argentina 2012
Hawks Crest Cabernet Sauvignon California 2007
Elysium California Black Muscat
Palm treats that will surprise you in this pricey Belgravia ’hood:
Mondays – Cocktails and bar menu bites are only £5 each.
A beat the clock bar menu – The earlier you come in the evening, the cheaper it is. £5 at 5pm, £6 at 6pm … for cocktails and bites.
The Palm London
1-3 Pont Street, London SW1X 9EJ
Tel. 020 7201 0710
Su-Lin Ong @slolondon dined on behalf of The London Foodie as a guest of The Palm London and FourteenTen.