Palm, 1 Pont Street, London SW1

Like Crisco or Regis Philbin, Palm is one of those great American institutions to which the rest of the world is oblivious. The granddaddy of New York steakhouses, it has grown from a family-run restaurant, founded in Manhattan in 1926, into a 27-strong chain. In the States, Palm calls itself the original "place to see and be seen". Over here, it's the place you haven't really heard of.

Unless you're an American expat, that is, homesick for filet mignon, broiled crab cakes and grilled shrimp salad. In those circles, there has apparently been rejoicing at the arrival of Palm, on a Belgravia shopping strip which couldn't be more uptown if Christie Brinkley was high-stepping outside with a bunch of motor mechanics.

No tables were available for a Saturday night dinner, apart from at 6.30pm. And who on earth eats out at 6.30? (Oh yes, that's right, Americans...) So we booked in for an early Saturday lunch, having first been assured by the reservationist that the place was child-friendly.

What she didn't tell us was that Palm is child-friendly, even for adults. The walls are covered with cartoons, celebrity caricatures (including – yes! – Regis Philbin) and framed memorabilia, copied from the Manhattan original. This startling design feature apart, the look is standard steakhouse – dark woodwork, booths, and a bar lined with high stools – recreated in shiny new materials.

The staff, some of them brought over from the States for the launch, are the real deal. From the moment we arrived, we were engulfed in a blitzkrieg of efficient charm. Our waiter Michael, on loan from the Orlando branch, rapidly became our new best friend, addressing the kids as "buddy" while guiding us through the Palm way of doing things. It could have been annoying, but it was done with such genuine friendliness, we began to feel he actually loved us. "This is great – just like being in America!" Harry marvelled.

Then the food arrived. First, a basket of slightly dried-out raisin and hazelnut bread. Then, with a tableside bustle involving several waiters and a bus boy, the starters. Can this really be the food on which an empire was built? Fried calamari – a hangover from the original Palm's Italian menu – were light and crisp, but piled on a pointless bed of iceberg lettuce, and served with a revoltingly sweet tomato dip reminiscent of a cook-in pasta sauce.

Shrimp Bruno, another Palm signature dish, doesn't, alas, fly through the air and park its bare bottom in your face. Instead, three butterflied and lightly battered shrimp (or as we would call them, prawns) sit forlornly in a white wine and Dijon mustard sauce which again struck us as unpalatably sweet.

We took our new buddy's advice "to get a little surf and turf thing going" and paired one of the fabled New York sirloin steaks, made with imported USDA prime beef, with a 2lb lobster, flown in twice-weekly, Michael assured us, "from the ice-cold waters of Nova Scotia". There followed an interval during which we could have comfortably surfed over to Nova Scotia and brought back a lobster ourselves. The kids were getting frantic, Michael even more so, darting over repeatedly to tell us our food was on its way.

And then it happened. The cataclysm. Running upstairs from the kitchen with our main courses on a tray, Michael dropped the entire lot. The noise brought the restaurant to a shocked standstill. When, after a tense interval, Michael reappeared at our table, he was a broken man. Profuse apologies gave way to a mock-jaunty monologue: "I'm gonna buy you dessert! Do you guys like Key Lime pie? The juice is flown in specially from Florida. That's where I'm from..." Like a malfunctioning robot, he spieled on, over the sound of sweeping up and china crunching underfoot.

All of which put us under pressure to enjoy our surf and turf platter when it finally arrived. Thank God, the steak was first-rate, smokily charred outside, ruby red inside. The lobster, though, was ... hmm; the claws pre-cracked, the body split and finished under the grill with parsley butter, it had a kind of vacuum-packed quality that called to mind not so much the sound of the sea as the whooshing of the 747 that brought it here.

Michael put the puddings down, with a "Yummy yummy!" that I fear wasn't just for the benefit of the children. "This must be what it's like to live in a care home," Harry whispered. The famous Key Lime pie was good, if you like sickly, creamy puddings; chocolate fondant, however, was too sweet even for our 8-year-old.

True to his word, Michael deducted our puddings from the bill, but it was still hefty; that 14oz steak costs a staggering £49. And that's about the only part of the Palm experience which doesn't feel authentically American; in the States, it's possible to leave a mid-market restaurant without feeling you've been mugged. Michael, we loved you, we'll certainly look you up should we ever find ourselves in Orlando. But with Palm, our special relationship just isn't going to happen.

Palm, 1 Pont Street, London SW1 (020-7201 0710)

Food 3 stars
Ambience 2 stars
Service 4 stars

Around £50 a head. Prix fixe lunch menu £15 per head

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"

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones