34 Grosvenor Square
London W1K 2HD
Tel: 020 350 3434
Adrian Gill. A quality writer. Shot a baboon. Married to the blonde. I probably couldn’t tell you much more about the man. Ask most people to describe him in two words and it would probably be ‘restaurant critic’. Despite his power to make a restaurateur quiver at their knees and hide behind the nearest menu, how much gravitas does his Sunday Times restaurant column actually have?
Do not get me wrong, Mr Gill knows what he is talking about but it is fair to say that I read his reviews for the glorious prose and humorous one liners rather than a source for where to have dinner this week. Any restaurateur, general manager or maitre’d who are worth their salt, should be able to recognise the likes of Gill, Coren and Fay. Critics should not get preferential treatment over the likes of you and I who are not passing the bill back to our editor, but if you were running the show you’d be daft not to make sure that they are looked after and warn the kitchen who is on that table. It goes as read.
Before reading Gill’s review of 34, Richard Caring’s new steak restaurant, I had a feeling he wasn’t going to like it.
The Martin Brudnizki designed room is worth the price tag that it most likely came with. Standing by reception, the room is narrow in depth but spans far from left to right with a cosy bar for about half a dozen at one end that is also home to the pianist and his baby grand. The artwork is modern, very New York bachelor penthouse. The Smythson tones of the orange leather chairs and the perfect lighting level make it a handsome room and not to masculine considering it is all about steak. Each table also has a cute gas table lamp, which reminds me of the ones at Annabel’s and act as a subtle barrier between you and your neighbouring table.
The bespoke charcoal Argentinian grill, the parrila, is the focus of the room and adds a sense of informality to the whole affair. The white wooden plantation shuttering gives it that Hamptons beach house feel. The vivacious Laura Montana is GM and her infectious, bubbly personality rubs off on the rest of the staff. Forget stuffy, snooty service. These are a new generation of front of house.
The menu is surprisingly short. Starters are simple English classics with the likes of the prawn cocktail and a crab salad. The burrata with smoked salted beets is the sort of dish you expect to see coming from Florence Knight’s kitchen at Polpetto. A perfect warm up for the taste buds before the meat dominated mains but the price tag of £13.25 for a starter gives you a gentle prod to remind you that you are in W1.
There is a good geographical spread when it comes to choosing the bit of cow you want to eat. Scottish, Australian, Argentinian and USA are all available. We stuck with the Scottish rib eye. I have no intention, or the financial backing, to spend eighty-five quid on a Wagyu steak when the piece of Scottish cattle we had tasted as it did. A perfect medium rare slab of meat for £33.00. A veal chop was generous in size and cooked slightly pink, how it should be, and at a rather reasonable price of £26.00.
Whatever you do if you visit 34, order the onion rings. Even if you don’t like onion rings, order them. These crunchy little hoops of joy are the best I have ever had. The secret is supposedly a shallot and chardonnay vinegar before they are fried. The wine list, put together by the Annabel’s Cellarmaster Richard Rotti, and has some real gems with prices starting at £22.
I could give you 34 reasons as to why I disagree with AA Gill’s review of this new steak restaurant but I won’t. Just go to 34, eat steak, order the onion rings, be merry and judge it for yourself.
Meal for two with wine is approximately £140 including service.