34, 34 Grosvenor Square, London W1

 

I'm trying to cast my mind back to the tail end of 2011, when 34 was my lunch destination, rather than my waist measurement, and I'm struggling. My memories of this new Mayfair smoothie, the latest launch from Richard Caring's fast-expanding Caprice Holdings group, have soft-focused into a vague impression of luxury, of deep carpets and heavy silverware, all sepia-tinted by the glow from a host of flickering table lamps.

Rather like a first-class plane flight, my lunch at 34 seems to have passed without leaving much of an impression. This place is all about expensive comfort rather than excitement. Nothing about it will startle the well-heeled diners who flock to existing Caprice favourites, The Ivy and Scott's, and who have already taken 34 to their hearts, judging by how hard it is to get a blimmin table.

From the moment you check in (turn left for the most desirable seats, as on a plane), there's a sensation of being in safe hands. A team of fluffers descends, one to arrange your napkin, a second to tweezer lime into your water, while another circles, waiting to proffer bread. Buckling up for the smooth ride ahead, I could have asked for a magazine, a massage, possibly even a dressing gown and fold-down bed.

The dining room is masculine and clubbish, with such low lighting that even on a bright day, it feels like the in-flight movie is about to start. It's tasteful enough, but bland; the muted retro-styling falling short of the see-and-be-seen glamour of Scott's, but not quite evoking the buzzy intimacy designer Martin Brudnizki achieved with the Dean Street Townhouse.

In one respect, though, 34 does offer something special. The steaks. Cooked over charcoal on an Argentinian parrilla grill, the meat here is as good as it gets. My bone-in Scottish rib eye was up there with the best I have ever eaten. And I ordered one of the less pricey cuts, at £33. There's an international line-up of imported beef on offer here, ranging from dry-aged Scottish, through prime American cuts (tactful – the US embassy is over the road) to Argentinian – 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. In this land of the perma-tanned global traveller, even the ingredients have racked up more air miles than Piers Morgan.

With grilled meat at its heart, the menu pulls off the familiar Caprice Group balancing act between posh and popular, offering caviar, champagne risotto and lobster, but also burgers – even if one of them comes with foie gras and costs £25. In place of the trad Brit comfort dishes of the Mark Hix era, chef-director Tim Hughes has picked up on the American comfort food trend, offering short ribs, meatballs and spaghetti, and warm doughnuts.

My lunch guest, Russell Norman, worked for Caring before branching out on his own with Polpo, and for old times' sake he ordered a Caprice classic, Caesar salad. It was well up to standard, each leaf impeccably dressed, and crisp to the last bite. Less impeccable was my pumpkin salad with lemon-flavoured goat's curd; the harmony of its ingredients marred by the flabby unsweetness of the squash.

Mains followed starters at a startling pace, bringing out the old operations director in Russell, who estimated the turnaround between courses at around seven minutes. His halibut with brown shrimp, another classic Caprice partnership, was a golden lozenge of perfection. My sumptuous rib eye was let down by a side order of stale-tasting chips, served in the now-mandatory mini-bucket.

Departing from Caprice/Ivy tradition, the puddings are rather fancy-pantsy. "This is all new," said Russell suspiciously, on being presented with a pineapple 'carpaccio' served on a slab of rippled glass. Both it and my sloe-gin fizz jelly felt slightly overworked.

As did the heavy branding of the tableware, with gold-rimmed plates, pearl-handled Laguiole steak knives and even individually-wrapped toothpicks bearing the 34 logo – a naff bit of instant self-mythologising, but it probably comes in handy to remind the more doddery diners where they are. And if they are in any remaining doubts that it's Mayfair, the bill will certainly contain a further clue.

We paid £75 a head, which included a £10.50 glass each of Croatian Malvasia, and a cheeky £2 cover charge; Caprice restaurants must be among the last to cling to that practice. Still, baulking at prices in this part of Mayfair is like going to Alaska and moaning about the weather.

"He knows his market so well, this is perfect for where it is and who it serves," was Russell's verdict. For me, 34 lacked the theatrical buzziness of rival opening, The Delaunay. But it will doubtless become a favourite of the Mayfair set, who can watch their steaks sizzling on the grill, all trace of smoke whisked away by a top-of-the-range air conditioning system. And that sums the place up. It may have the steaks, but it just doesn't have the sizzle.

34, 34 Grosvenor Square, London W1 (020-3350 3434)

About £150 for two including wine and service

Food ****
Ambience ***
Service *****

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Beefeaters

Barbecoa

Set up with BBQ expert Adam Perry Lang, Jamie Oliver's grill and in house butchers offers top quality British and Irish meat – try the 48 day dry-aged Rib-Eye for two.

20 New Change Passage, London, EC4M 9AG (0203 0058555)

The Cowshed

Cook your steak to perfection with you own hot stone at your table at this great new addition to Bristol's culinary choices.

46 Whiteladies Road, Bristol, BS8 2NH (0117 9733550)

The Grill on the Alley

Offering Wagyu "Kobe" Fillet this steak house has a cut of meat for everyone, including a Best of British steak that changes each month - currently an Aberdeen Angus from Wales.

5 Ridgefield ,City Centre, Manchester, M2 6EG (0161 8333465)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine