Step into an episode of Mad Men and enjoy exquisite steak at The Palm in Belgravia
By ADIL AZIM
The Palm first opened its doors in 1926 in New York, run by Parma-natives John Ganzi and Pio Bozzi. Their Italian heritage explains the Mediterranean twist to the menu and indeed, steaks, for which The Palm is now well known, weren’t even originally part of the menu. Whenever a customer would ask for steak during The Palm’s early years, Ganzi would run to a nearby butcher shop on Second Avenue, buy a steak, and then cook it to order. The Palm is also famed for its Novia Scotia lobster, flown in directly from Canada.
My first encounter with a lobster, sadly, was a fairly traumatic experience. As a curious 10-year-old, I adopted a ‘try everything once’ attitude and once insisted on ordering the full ‘lobster thermidor’ when having dinner with the parents. After half an hour of messy effort with a lobster cracker, nothing – and I mean, nothing – upsets a chubby, hungry child more than prising only a meagre amount of meat out of a monster of a crustacean.
The Palm has featured on a number of episodes of Mad Men – the original restaurant is situated only a few blocks away from Madison Avenue – and walking into the Belgravia branch, you are immediately transported back to the heady days of 60s American opulence, with private booths and dim lighting. However, the ambience is anything but subdued. The restaurant was teeming with diners; from grizzled businessmen to fresh-faced yuppies and from loud raucous groups to little pockets of romantic solitude: Americana at its all-inclusive best.
The Palm serves USDA Prime beef, a classification explained to me by our wonderful host Saimir who patiently detailed exactly which attributes beef must have in order to gain the ‘Prime’ designation. Crucially, a mere 2% of beef is designated USDA Prime and is therefore quickly snapped up by some of the best restaurants around the country. Being able to find USDA Prime beef in the UK is, therefore, a luxury and one which I was keen to not pass up.
Resisting the urge to feed my twisted sense of humour by baiting the waiter and asking for my steak ‘as well-done as possible’ (for what it’s worth, I prefer mine medium; but as with all things which have little impact on world peace: to each, their own), I ordered the most popular steak on the menu, the Prime New York Strip. It was delivered exactly as ordered, hot and slightly pink and tender to the point where my steak knife was nearly redundant. However, despite how delectable my own steak was, my friend’s Filet Mignon was absolutely divine: juicy and rich with a texture like butter. I was politely offered one bite of this little piece of steak heaven, but despite my longing looks and explicit puppy-dog eyes, that would sadly be it.
As the Canadian leg of our North American culinary journey was presented to us, I once again felt like the traumatised child of nigh 18 years ago, but my first fear was avoided as our waitress kindly offered to crack the lobster open for us, and the second was banished forever, as copious amounts of succulent lobster meat were extracted and placed invitingly in front of us.
To enjoy great lobster, you require little more than a generous helping of warm, melted butter, and this one was no exception. The slight salt-watery taste of the claw meat, far from being a flaw, was a testament to the freshness of the lobster.
Service at The Palm is as impeccable as its food. It is friendly, attentive and welcoming without ever being haughty or overbearing. Everyone who visited our table had a wide smile on their face, which didn’t disappear the moment they walked away; a lesson that many other eateries would do well to learn. Enjoying food is as much about the experience as the ingredients themselves, and The Palm certainly addresses both requirements perfectly.
We did have starters and home-made desserts, but such is the quality of the steaks and lobsters, that the other courses simply become footnotes of your evening. While the calamari and asparagus fritti were supremely appetizing and the key lime pie was delicate yet tangy, the plaudits belong almost entirely to The Palm’s mouth-watering surf’n’turf.
While our beloved Don Draper has made some questionable decisions while gracing our TV screens, choosing to dine at The Palm is not one of them: if it’s good enough for Don Draper, then it’s surely good enough for me. Thankfully though, while Mad Men is a work of fiction, the menu at The Palm is not and the world is much better off for it.
The Palm is located at 1-3 Pont Street Belgravia, London UK, SW1X 9EJ . To make a reservation, please phone: (44) 20 7201 0710 or Fax:(44) 20 7201 0711. Lunch Served Friday – Sunday, 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM; Dinner Served Monday – Saturday, 5:00 PM – 11:00 PM Sunday – 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM