A happy hour with a difference launches at The Palm in London’s Belgravia
Opened in May 2009, The Palm replaced the legendary restaurant Drones of Pont Street. Amongst the original backers of Drones were David Niven Jr. and Sir Roger Moore. Nicky Kerman, a titan of the restaurant world, was another part owner. A later reincarnation was the brainchild of television chef Antony Worrall Thompson. Of the décor of this era, critic Nick Foulkes described it as: “Daphne’s meets The Magic Roundabout with a touch of Swedish sauna”. Next came a lady named Annie Foster Firth and most recently it opened as Marco Pierre White’s Drones in 2001.
The Palm is a restaurant group that is well known throughout America. They have 28 restaurants throughout the US, in Mexico and in the UK and amongst them are ones in Miami, Los Angeles and East Hampton. The first Palm opened in 1926 when Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi set up shop in New York City. The two families still own the business today and today their descendants, Wally Ganzi and Bruce Bozzi Sr., are co-owners.
As well known for the caricatures of customers that adorn each restaurant’s walls as for the prime steaks they serve, famous faces who have dined at Palm restaurants number George Hamilton, Jane Fonda and President George H. W. Bush. When it opened, the London outpost featured many of these individuals on virtually every wall also but a recent redecoration has seen this reduced to a more tasteful and less in your face level. Given that most of those featured were rather obscure ex-American ambassadors, the makeover was indeed called for and it works.
Decorated in a traditionally American style that well suits steak diners, the emphasis here is on dark woods and booth style seating. A long bar graces one room and it was here that myself and my companions enjoyed an evening trying out The Palm London’s latest concept, “PrimeTime at The Palm”.
The offering here is simple and affordable and it is indeed a refreshing and welcome addition to this expensive neighbourhood. Each night, diners pay the same price in pounds as the time on the clock from 5pm until 9pm for both cocktails and what they call “Prime Bites®”. In simple terms, between 5pm and 6pm, the price is £5 and between 8pm and 9pm, it is £8.
The menu is varied and perfect for sharing. Amongst what we tried were The Palm’s steak-burger sliders served with cheddar cheese, pickle and pesto mayonnaise (normally priced at £11.90). Given that many restaurants fail to cook mini burgers to my rare preference, The Palm scored perfectly and I was most impressed.
Next came a pizza style dish of Calabrese flatbread (normally £10.90) that featured basil pesto, buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, olives, roasted peppers and capers. It was spicy and full of colour and we accompanied this with a generous plate of charcuterie (also normally £10.90).
We concluded on the food front with a Nova Scotia lobster and bacon fondue made with Samuel Adams Boston Lager and served with ciabatta rolls (also £10.90 normally). Though I truly enjoyed it, one of my companions found it a little bland and without a heater underneath it did go cold rather quickly.
On the drinks front, the “PrimeTime” selection is spectacular. The affable barman, Dale, who hails from Trinidad and Tobago, guided us through it brilliantly and amused us throughout our visit. He’d previously worked at the Chicago Ribshack and was especially enthusiastic about champagne cocktails.
A Ketel One vodka martini, “The Ultimatum”, reminded me very much of days in New York and had a distinct dominance of olive juice in its taste but a cocktail named “The True Brit” was the definite winner. Made with Sipsmith gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and a chilled English sparkling wine from Kentish winemakers Herbert Hall, this refreshing drink was most refreshing.
The Palm, at the time of our visit, was managed by Marc Whiteley. I first met him in 2005 when he worked for The Hon. Christopher Gilmour, the then owner of such fine establishments as Christopher’s in Covent Garden and The Enterprise in Walton Street, SW3. Sadly he wasn’t present and has since left the company but we met two other members of The Palm team, Debbie Eybers and Saimir Kalziqi. They guided us through other offerings at the restaurant and on a future occasion, I’ll most definitely return to revisit the restaurant’s full menu. A prime rib of British beef, served on a Sunday for lunch and dinner, is a remarkably reasonable £19.90.
“PrimeTime at The Palm” is something that locals and visitors alike should most definitely seek out. Where else will you find such a bargain in Belgravia?
The Palm, 1 – 3 Pont Street, London, SW1X 9EJ. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7201 0710. Website: http://www.thepalm.com/London
Follow The Palm London on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/PalmLondon
The “PrimeTime at The Palm” menu is available daily. On Monday nights, the “clock stops at 5pm” so all cocktails and “Prime Bites®” are £5 for the whole evening.