After the brief misfortune of travelling over a mile in the wrong direction to find 34, which is actually situated at 34 Grosvenor Square (God knows how they landed on the name), we finally arrived at the slick-looking contemporary cuisine in Mayfair.
Bustling through the hectic London streets, even more so than usual due to the first day of sun in what feels like years, I was looking for a smart, conservative and immaculately-presented restaurant, and that’s exactly what we found.
A lovely warm welcome from the exceptional staff – yes, they were always going to be on their best behaviour, but you still have make it believable – who seated us in what instantly felt very much like the quintessential New York dining establishment.
First on the agenda was the drinks, which we’d been craving ever since we jumped in the discombobulated driver’s black cab. I asked the waiter for what he felt was most fitting drink to start things off, and he had no hesitation in recommending the Apple Bellini, which, on all counts, was an absolute delight. Needless to say we ordered plenty more over the course of the meal.
The starters menu had its fair share of eye-catching options, I was torn between the seared scallops in the shell, accompanied with garlic mash, bronze fennel and toasted almonds and the steak tartare, but with a bit of help from Mr waiter, once more, we ended up going for the buttermilk pancakes with cured bacon and maple syrup to share. And what a sound bit of advice it turned out to be.
Not usually a lover of meat that’s accompanied with sweet sauces, nor of sweet with savoury in general, but the bacon was so light and perfectly salted that it mixed wonderfully with the delicate pancakes. The maple syrup wasn’t overpowering, and the whole dish just worked splendidly.
For our mains, we ordered the southern fried chicken coleslaw sandwich and steak frites with fried egg and béarnaise sauce.
Now, I am a huge fan of chicken and will regularly choose it as my preferred meat, so the southern fried sandwich was an instant attraction to me. The dish arrived wonderfully presented (as did all the courses throughout the meal), and did exactly what it said on the tin, but unfortunately, nothing more. For me, a dish like this doesn’t need much else alongside it as long as both the chicken and the ‘southern’ flavouring are exceptional. They weren’t. And so the dish became a little bland. The chicken was also slightly dry. By no means cataclysmic, just slightly disappointing after the marvellous starter.
The steak frites with fried egg and béarnaise sauce, however, was outstanding. Ordered as medium, it did turn out to be slightly rarer than we expected, but it simply did not matter. The meat was exquisite, the egg was delightful and the béarnaise sauce was beautifully weighted. The frites were glorious both in presentation and in taste. They were the perfect combination of light and crispy, and still managed to maintain that much-desired fluffy texture inside. A fantastic accompaniment.
The menu at 34 is fantastic. Yes, some of the prices are eye-watering, but 34 isn’t a restaurant you’d just quickly pop into to grab a ‘bite’, it’s an experience, a statement. It almost felt like a private members’ club. That might not be your bag, but take of that what you will.
The menu boasts a broad range of meats and fish, and the brunch eggs menu holds just about everything you could possibly want in terms of options. If you’re an egg person, that is.
The ‘atmosphere’, if there is such a thing, was tranquil, calm and every bit as swanky as the food itself.
Not perfect, but certainly well worth experiencing if you’re keen on well presented food which has been thoroughly thought about and delivered to a high standard.
34, 34 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 2HD
By Kris Pace