1-3 Pont Street, Belgravia SW1X 9EJ
Cuisine Type: American
Palm London is one of a 28-strong US group of fourth generation family-run restaurants, of which just two are located outside the States; the second is in Mexico. Palm London has been operating in the capital since 2009, but has recently gone through a fair amount of change, with renovations taking place at the turn of this year, at the same time bringing in new key staff at the front of house as well as in the kitchen: a pretty bold combination. Palm London has something of a club-like feel in some parts; there’s lots of dark wood and muted colours, but it works and makes for a great, almost reverent atmosphere to spend time in while enjoying their excellent food. In contrast there’s some booth seating towards the back of the restaurant beyond the bar which has a less formal feel and is ideal for small groups.
All in all Palm London has a bit of a retro feel that pervades the whole place, presumably intentionally. Serving USDA prime beef, imported specifically for them, the restaurant has become a bit of a haven of familiarity for visitors from across the pond, but it’s also a welcome part of the London dining scene where those of us who have tasted 35 day aged USDA prime rib eye and New York Strip on our travels can enjoy these beautifully tender, quality cuts of meat in our own back yard – well in Belgravia anyway.
We started our evening at Palm London with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc which, at about £9 per large glass, had good vibrant yellow fruits on the palate. We made this last through starters of Crispy Calamari Fritti and Jumbo Shrimp Bruno and it accompanied both dishes well. The tender calamari, with its delicate flavour was just al dente, yielding into creaminess as you chewed, and contrasting well with the slight crunch of the cornmeal coating. The dish was accompanied by a good zingy salsa served in a separate dish for dipping. The Shrimp – jumbo prawns really – were very tender, with good flavour and were supported perfectly by the slightly meaty, mustardy, bisque-like sauce they were served in, which gave the dish some nice tang. These were two excellent starters which we both enjoyed.
We both chose from the UDSA prime corn fed beef range for our mains. Phillip had the 9oz Filet Mignon, which was a good sized chunk of meat, nicely caramelised on the outside by the intense heat from Palm’s ‘broiler’ and served on the rare side of medium rare. The red/pink flesh was beautifully tender and had amazing flavour. My rib eye steak was similarly caramelised, with its red/pink flesh also giving great flavour and this was accompanied well by good brandy peppercorn sauce that had some nice heat to it. Both were excellent quality pieces of meat cooked beautifully by the Palm London kitchen staff. We accompanied the steaks with what turned out to be a very cheesy three cheese potato gratin and a portion of asparagus fritti with lemon garlic butter, the garlickiness clinging to the crispy coating on the lovely al dente asparagus. These are definitely two sides to sample, assuming they are on the menu when you go along. Palm London varies its side dishes with the seasons to ensure that good quality, fresh seasonal ingredients are available, so you can expect innovative side dishes appearing on their menu at regular intervals. We accompanied our mains with a bottle of Robert Mondavi Pinot noir, which had lovely red fruits, a light to medium body and low tannins, together with some nice acidity which cut through the fats in the steaks really well, yet didn’t outshine the flavour of the meat. I thought the two worked remarkably well together and at around £30 per bottle it’s very reasonably priced.
We were both pretty full after what were generous sized starters and fairly huge hunks of prime beef, so we shared a dessert of Key lime pie. Now, my understanding is that the only place that you can get the real thing is the Florida Keys where the key limes grow, as they don’t travel well. But that having been said, this lime custard tart with its biscuit base was very nice indeed, with a good but not overly aggressive acidity and was accompanied well by a blueberry compote, a good choice as it didn’t compete with the pie filling. There was also a little sweetened whipped cream on the side, which for me, it didn’t need. It may not be ‘the real thing’ but this key lime pie is very good.
We had a great evening at Palm London, we occupied one of the booths towards the back of the restaurant and it was a little like being in a 1950s style American diner. Service was good and attentive, with the staff discussing choices both of meats and wines to ensure that we got exactly what we wanted. You can expect to pay about £50 per head for food over three courses at Palm London, but the quality is very high. It’s certainly an American export that’s worth seeking out, whatever your nationality is.