The Palm London, SW1

Back in London last week we headed west to The Palm in Belgravia for a low-key evening meal.

With restaurants in more than 25 cities in the States, The Palm is a top-end neighbourhood joint and a big deal over the pond. In fact, The Palm is a genuine (or more accurately, genu-wine) all-American institution; think USDA Prime steaks, shrimp cocktail, creamed spinach, white tablecloths and waiting staff who actually remember your name. Established in New York in 1926 by Italian immigrants, the menu is also studded with some Italian classics such as Veal Parmigiana and Chicken Piccata.

We started at the bar and, bourbon and soda in hand, were soon fully in character, y’all. Appetizers on our side of the table were jumbo crab cakes with chipotle tartar sauce, and sesame seared tuna with seaweed salad and pickled ginger. We followed with a monstrous surf ‘n turf that matched a 9oz filet mignon (fill-ay min-yone) with half a Nova Scotia lobster, plus parmesan fries and a trio of steak sauces.

The quality of the ingredients was generally pretty good, the portions huge, and nothing went to waste. So retro, so good. The wine list tells you something about The Palm: a carefully balanced marriage of the best of Italy and the US. Much like those intrepid restaurateurs back in the twenties, we opted for the new world and our choice – a west coast Zinfandel – was just the ticket.

Afterwards, sitting at the bar, we got chatting to a couple of the staff. Hours later we embraced like old friends and promised to come back very soon. We meant it.

Lobster

Palm London’s 4lb Nova Scotia Lobster

Cost of meal (with 2 bottles of wine):
£100 per person

Food:
7 out of 10 – Simple US fare, perfectly executed

Atmosphere:
7 out of 10 – Cosy and relaxed. A place you could loosen your belt

Service:
8 out of 10 – The kind of service that you only get in the States (until now)

Overall:
7 out of 10

Summary in seven:
One for old friends, not first dates

Details:
The Palm London
1 Pont St, London, Greater London SW1X 9EJ
Tel: 020 7201 0710

UPDATE:
The Palm London has since closed. GT recommends visiting their flagship restaurant on 837 Second Avenue, New York to experience the Palm’s renowned hospitality.

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Rocka Beach Lounge and Restaurant, Buzios

Buzios is Brazil’s answer to Ibiza and is seemingly reserved solely for Rio’s most beautiful holidaymakers. Littered with beaches for every taste (surfing, sailing, walking, and hiding) and a vibrant nightlife, it is truly something to behold.

The highlight of our trip came courtesy of Rocka, a gem of a restaurant and beach lounge located on Praia Brava beach, a short buggy ride from the centre of town. As you approach down the sandy steps, it’s the beautiful bay that strikes you first, then the yellow of the Veuve Clicquot sunshades, and then the beautiful people lounging under each and every one of them. We did our best to fit in.

The restaurant is run by two young guys who have clearly trained and invested well, and as a result live an enviable beachside life. So far, so Buzios. However, the real surprise was to come: the food is from the very top drawer.

Having decided that this was one of those times when you just hang the expense, we started with bubbles on the loungers while we waited for a table to come free. Once seated, we kicked off with an octopus carpaccio with green apple and a white fish ceviche with mango – presented with the precision of Marcus Wareing, but served on a wooden terrace by a guy in board shorts! We shared generous mains of squid and piglet with salads and sides – nothing was anything less than faultless. These boys could go far, but if I were them, I’d stay firmly put!

Food

Cost of meal:
£100 per person (with champagne)

Food:
10 out of 10 – food may never be the same again

Atmosphere:
9 out of 10 – have knocked a mark off as a cloud came over at one point

Service:
10 out of 10 – friendly, funny, charming

Overall:
10 out of 10

Summary in seven:
Would still be there if we could

Details:
Rocka Beach Lounge and Restaurant
Praia Brava, Buzios, Brazil

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Grain Store, London

Last week, on the hottest day of the year, we headed to Bruno Loubet’s new place in King’s Cross: Grain Store.

Whilst entry does require running the gauntlet of the new Granary Square development (fountains, buggies, deck chairs et al), once inside the management have done a great job of creating a light and airy warehouse space that screams MEATPACKING DISTRICT.

At those temperatures lunch was always going to be dominated by drinks and just a quick glance at the cocktail menu confirmed that we had made the perfect choice for a lazy afternoon. We started with the Cedar Wood Lemonade (Cedar Wood Fino Sherry, Lemon Juice and Soda) and it didn’t disappoint, walking that tricky line between refreshment and masculinity perfectly.

The next choice, a black truffle-infused martini, wasn’t quite the same ringing success and frankly seemed like a waste of good fungi. Luckily, we had hedged our bets and its arrival coincided with the appearance of a cracking bottle of Muscadet, so all was well with the world once more.

Our initial concerns that the menu might be designed for ‘hippies who lunch’ were allayed when starters of crudités with cashew and yeast dip and olive soil, and falafels made with courgette, broad bean and prawn arrived beautifully presented. Cardigan-wearing festival food this isn’t: just a timely reminder that we all need more vegetables in our lives.

The main courses were similarly veg-focused but with perfectly-cooked lamb belly, pork belly, quail and the like added as garnish. This is guilt-free food and, when combined with one of the best drinks lists we have seen in ages, proved to be the perfect anecdote to the stuffy day outside.

Interior

Cost of meal with 1 bottle of wine (and cocktails):
£40 per person

Food:
8 out of 10 – genuinely innovative and refreshingly different

Atmosphere:
7 out of 10 – the large room started to feel a little empty by the end of lunch

Service:
9 out of 10 – polite, friendly and helpful

Overall:
8 out of 10

Summary in seven:
Another exciting new option in King’s Cross

Details:
Grain Store
Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4AB
Tel: 020 7324 4466

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