If you haven’t heard about 34, the latest restaurant to open in the prestigious Caprice Holdings portfolio – then you really should feel ashamed of yourself. It’s been the buzzword of London’s media for the last few months serving up some strong opinions from critics, journalists, socialites, businessmen and Royalty alike.
Having heard all the hype, read all the reviews, peeked at all the pictures, I decided it was high time to see if it’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ or if 34 really is as good as some say. Bagging myself a hot spot in the 6.30pm-9.00pm Tuesday evening slot, I reserved both table and judgment until then. NB – tables are like a blue steak here; rare unless you leave some time to book.
Upon my arrival at the grand entrance of 34, (slightly behind schedule after a hectic day) I was feeling a little frantic. However, when a kind doorman surprised me by opening my taxi door and escorting me up the steps to the restaurant, my mood immediately mellowed and I knew I was in for a special treat.
Inside the restaurant a sea of smiles swam towards me and welcomed me with a great show of hospitality. Despite the masculine and large clubby interior, the atmosphere is one of comfort and warmth. Little orange table lamps glow softly upon each of the neatly arranged mahogany tables and you can’t help but feel at ease as the waiter brigade squeeze ‘n plop the lime into your water, place the napkin on your knees and lay a basket of bread rolls at your fingertips. It felt like the kind of treatment Giles Conran would get and I was almost chuckling at the sheer excess of it.
Indeed, nothing seems impossible when you’re at 34. On the table next to us, a button had fallen off one lady’s cardigan. The staff was hot on her heels; sweeping it up and stitching it back on without a second spared. A stitch in time really does save nine and as you can imagine, we were all completely charmed.
And the charm did not fade. The speed of service was impeccable. Our orders were snapped up and presented to us quicker than you could say ‘poof’. No mean feat considering the restaurant was fully booked and the food was cooked to perfection. Even though much ado has been made about the steaks at 34, I wanted to taste outside the box and determine if the rest of the menu could also offer something to write home about. I was very pleasantly rewarded.
“My tiger prawns and monkfish were packed full of flavour and accompanied by two quaint little pans – one of butternut squash relish and the other with quinoa and crunchy peanuts. I was touched by the extra effort taken to make the meal as memorable, comforting and quaint as possible.”
However, if meat is your mantra –the steaks at 34 looked and smelt sensational. Cooked over charcoal on an Argentinean parrilla grill, the less pricey cuts weigh in at £33. There’s an international line-up of imported beef on offer, ranging from dry-aged Scottish, through prime American cuts to Argentinean – specifically “free-range organic grass-fed beef from the islands on the Parana river in northern Argentina”. Top of the range is Australian wagyu, which checks in at £85 for a 240g sirloin.
With grilled meat at its heart, the menu pulls off the familiar Caprice Group ranging between lady and ladette in luxe – from caviar, champagne risotto and lobster, to burgers – even if one of them comes with foie gras and costs £25. Chef-director Tim Hughes has picked up on the American comfort food trend, offering short ribs, meatballs and spaghetti, and warm doughnuts.
As we left the restaurant, I felt as if I had almost been dining in a private room. The attention, service and quality we received were faultless and there was not one instance where we had to ask for anything since it’d already been done.
After all the attention the restaurant’s received, it would be no surprise if service and atmosphere lacked it’s original flare, like a soufflé that’s lost it’s ‘é’. But far from it. The restaurant is still stuffed full of character and makes every effort to exceed expectation. In my opinion, all praise’s fair at no 34 Grovesnor Square.
Review written by Poppy Cross 9/4/12