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Hugo van Kuffeler reviews 34

34Adding to the thoroughbred stable of London’s finest restaurants, the group that owns The Ivy, Scott’s and Le Caprice has a new offering in the form of 34.

A contemporary art deco club feel houses the buzz you can only get from a restaurant full of folk who are excited to be there and happy because the staff bring drinks to the table in record time and leave no one waiting to order. It seems a prerequisite to wear the heavy rimmed Buddy Holly specs to work here, but they are all so smiley and efficient that my impression that they’re too cool to be helpful is completely unfounded.

Plenty of marble and some great art hanging on the walls immediately make diners feel that they want to spend more time here and the comfy banquettes allowed us to see all who came and left. Our celebrity spot was satisfied on seeing Michael Caine holding court at a corner table.

One end of the restaurant houses live music and the bar while the other end faces the industrial open kitchen. We faced into the kitchen’s hive of activity where chefs shovelled hot coals under the grill and the slabs of beef were cooked with perfect char.

The menu is full of favourites and well balanced. Starters on offer are fish and vegetables such as grilled octopus, shrimp cocktail, white asparagus or caviar. For those who cannot face anything too healthy, there is plenty of excellent Prosciutto di Parma and Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. We chose the Dorset crab which was rich and fresh with a ‘crab biscuit’ which had been cleverly crafted from the brown meat. The mixed sashimi consisted of fresh slithers of tuna, salmon and kingfish that melted in the mouth with slices of pickled ginger and wasabi vinaigrette.

The menu offers many kinds of steak from Bridge of Allan Scottish to Australian Wagyu. In the interest of the Falkland Islands we the opted for an Argentinian filet that was an impressive slab of Latin cow and declared sublime. My New York Strip was perfectly seasoned and tasted so good that I rejected the normal accompaniment of mustard and béarnaise. The steaks are epic and the side orders are too irresistible to stick to ordering just one. Skinny fries, creamed sweet corn, spinach and a tower of onion rings took up every last bit of space on the table while we received some admiring glances from our neighbours.

While the Fleur de Sel Chocolate and Mint Bombe seemed to be ordered by most tables, (a large chocolate bubble with hot chocolate sauce ceremoniously poured over it, melting away the dome to reveal mint chocolate ice cream,) all puddings looked tempting. I ordered the Peanut Butter Crunch Bar, which has officially made my top three puddings ever – the sweet, salty, rich and smooth peanut with crunchy chocolate was a winning formula. Baked figs and iced nougat was appreciated with equal measure by a fig fanatic and we used some green tea to try and wash away the guilt.

With such refined restaurants already in the group, 34 is evidence that there is always room for something new at London’s foodie table. Whilst we seem to copy much from America in this country, it seems that the steak restaurant phenomenon has only just started and 34 is top of the list. Make no mistake, this is no steak chain, but 34 has taken some of the best elements of New York’s finest steak restaurants and thrown in some British refinery to create this very fine fayre.


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