34. It’s a Caring Formula.
Ask for a round table. You might otherwise have to move three times, like I did on the visit before this one. They favour the run of tables close together style of dining, so that you get to know your neighbour, whether or not you want to. A round table will take you away from all that. A round table like the one shared by B and I, with a lamp in the middle and a cord attached, draped, somewhat bizarrely, across the table.
If I’m not wrong (and I often am, ask anyone who knows me) this is the first restaurant in the Caring Group that he has opened on his own. The others in the Caring stable, which includes J Sheekey, Scott’s, The Ivy and Le Caprice, he bought fully formed from Rex Associates, otherwise known as Corbin and King, whose current portfolio includes The Wolseley, Delaunay and Brasserie Zédel. Maybe Mr Caring needed their help to sort out an original name. This is at 34 Grosvenor Square. They must have thought for ages before coming up with that one.
It’s very much in the Caring style. Plush, great service, expensive and comfortable. It’s a lovely Art Deco fit-out, with decent art on the walls. It oozes comfortable. Forties music was playing at the unseasonably early time that we sat down for dinner.
Given that the Forties is my era in so many ways, this made me put on my happy face. No mean feat, given the day I’d had in the office. At the time when normal people would eat, say about 7.30, the Baby Grand in the corner sprang to life, with some jazz classics. I approve of this, because I am not right next to it, as I was last time, when I had to communicate with a client by a combination of sign language and shouting, as I am unable to lip-read. I hope I never go deaf.
This is a sort of steak-based sister-restaurant to Scott’s round the corner, although the menu is wider than that. I am not in the market for steak at the moment as I am going through one of my food-faddy phases where I do not fancy slabs of meat. Clearly, that does not not stop me from being drawn like a magnet to the burger and chips on the menu. Somehow, ground beef isn’t quite as unattractive as the side of a cow. There is no logic. Bear with me I am sure it will pass. And it saved me a fortune. I wavered for a moment over Dover sole, but at £41 before 12.5% service, the price gave me pause.
And as I hadn’t eaten all day (stress: it’s a great diet) I knew that I would OD on bread and starter and thus be full before the main event, so I went for a non-starter; Fragrant Herb and Prawn Salad, with Coconut and Lime dressing. They did that thing with the vegetables, the shaving thing, which I quite like. It looks great and I particularly liked idea of the shaved coconut, even if it tasted precisely of nothing. But the salad was tasty and refreshing if you like that sort of thing. For an non-starter it was a generous portion, to the point where I felt I needed to leave some, so that I could do justice to the burger.
It comes with a few optional extras: either Mayfield or Barkham Blue, caramelised onions and crisp bacon. For an extra few quid you could have a truffled egg. I passed. In retrospect, I should have gone for the basic burger. The bacon was as stiff as a board, and the cheese and onion somewhat overpowered the beef. Which was actually delicious. Properly cooked, great quality meat, it was just what I wanted. And the chips? I can do no better than B’s description – posh McDonalds. And nice touches – the proper malt vinegar in a vintage glass bottle, all the relishes you could need and a decent bun. As feared, notwithstanding the non-starter, I couldn’t quite finish it. Not without encroaching on dessert stomach.
I’d read about the chocolate bombe but it wasn’t going to happen. Fruit was all I could manage. And very good it was too. I forced myself to dip the fruit into the good sorbet on the side.
I don’t normally love a Caring restaurant. Too anodyne, too expensive, too full of people I wouldn’t get on with very well in real life. And a £2 cover charge is just taking the mick, not to mention £3.50 for a glass of diet coke. But sometimes you just want a little bit of TLC, in a grown-up place, with a good vibe, decent music and food that doesn’t challenge. And there’s a set lunch menu that won’t break the bank. And the Brunch menu contains such delights as Banoffee Waffles, not to mention Buttermilk Pancakes with Cured Bacon and Maple Syrup. It would be rude not to.