Mayfair never fails to disappoint me. It’s always had that buzz of anticipation about it; perhaps it’s the limousines and sports cars or just simply the air of elegance well-heeled denizens manage to convey so effortlessly.
Whatever the reason is, it’s got it and the upshot, of course, is a restaurant scene where the price point is pretty rarefied but, in many cases, the food and drink is at sea level.
Something of a rarity then to find a Mayfair restaurant that not only offers excellent food but at value for money that is hard to beat.
The Palm Beach casino has been part of the fabric of Mayfair for decades. I remember often coming here in my late teens for night on the town to impress girlfriends, drawn by the magnet of cheap food and drink in ritzy Berkeley Street. The casino, once the grand art deco ballroom of the Mayfair Hotel next door, is still going strong, but following a recent £2 million makeover the restaurant has been transformed from top to bottom. As manager Ann-Marie admitted to me “For some reason, our food offering had historically been deemed a low priority and needed addressing, so we decided to reboot and invest in our food and we’re delighted with how it’s turned out.”
Lorded over by Executive chef Mahmud Zaman, a man well-versed in delivering high-quality casino cuisine from his long-standing tenure at The Sportsman, this 50 cover restaurant really does deliver the goods.
Not surprisingly, the menu is geared at satisfying the tastes of global gamblers from European dishes to South Asian, Chinese and Middle Eastern, but it does it with a style and panache you might expect in a few of the neighbourhood’s fancy hotel restaurants.
Perched on a platform at the far end of the casino it is warm and inviting with red velvet banquettes, high-quality table linens and far enough of away from the gaming floor to enjoy an undisturbed meal.
Faced with such a varied menu I have to admit I was spoilt for choice. The European starters ranged from burrata with garlic and rosemary confit tomatoes and pesto (£10) to grilled king prawns with lemon butter, red and green chillies, garlic and coriander (£12). I was also tempted by a tandoori salmon (£12) from the Asian starters or perhaps a mezze selection (£12) from the middle east.
In the end, I went for a truly tasty three lentil soup with coriander and crispy onions (£7). It came with a lemon wedge wrapped in muslin, de rigueur for fining dining types. My partner feasted on a huge platter of crispy shredded duck with pancakes, cucumber, spring onion and plum sauce (£16). This would have been more than enough for the main course let alone as a starter. It was authentic, grease-free and delicious.
Choosing a main was equally challenging but in a good way. It was like trying to navigate a world of temptation. While I had no doubt chef Zaman’s curries would have been impressive, I was drawn to the grills by the aged 8 oz fillet (£32) with a red wine jus and garlic spinach and creamy mash (both £4.50). It was a triumph, cooked exactly as asked for and washed down with a very smooth glass of Chateau Neuf du Pap (£12)
My partner chose from the Italian menu; grilled halibut on a crab cake with tomato salsa, avocado sorbet and fennel (£26). Another generous portion grilled beautifully but, as she remarked, “Didn’t need the crab cake.”
With the evening drawing towards 11 pm, the gaming floor was filling up. This is a 24 hour 7 days a week business, with the restaurant staying open for dinner until 2 am. There is another food outlet, the Bar and Grill which serves food and drinks all night.
So if perhaps a romantic Mayfair dinner suggestion might not have included the Palm Beach casino, you might want to rethink that notion. The food and service is excellent and, you never know, a fanciful flutter might even win you the cost of that dinner back. Then again, it might not of course. Having said that though, I think you would find it hard to get such great value fine dining anywhere else in Mayfair.
Tell me more about the Palm Beach Casino Restaurant
The Palm Beach casino, 30 Berkeley St, Mayfair, London W1J 8EH
T: 020 7493 6585 E: Palm.BeachReception@gentingcasinos.co.uk