34: A good score for 34 (February 2014)

My first visit to 34 occurred earlier on this week and was a definite success. The restaurant has the potential to join the likes of Cecconi’s and Scott’s in terms of being a perennial favourite on the London scene, consistently delivering and mostly populated by a fairly cool crowd. Although we arrived early (around 12), the atmosphere was soon buzzing and most of the tables occupied. We fortunately had one of the circular tables on the window side of the restaurant affording us a good view of what was going on. As an alternative to booking, there is also a walk-in bar where diners can sit, which constitutes another attractive option. In terms of the décor, think warm, deep orange banquettes and an oak finish, enhanced by contemporary art on the walls. The staff too clearly knew what they were doing, running a brisk and efficient yet mostly friendly operation. Turning to the food, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that 34 was far more than just steak and while there is a wide range in this respect (including Wagyu beef cuts at £75 for the deep-pocketed), we were also impressed by the other mains. Among our group, the spiced spatchcock chicken with pine nut and vegetable slaw as well as the coconut spiced salmon with grilled prawns and masoor dal both came in for praise, not only inventive, but also highly tasty with clear evidence of well thought-through composition and ingredient choice. Other options such as confit duck with smoked sausage and white bean stew or lobster macaroni with truffles also sounded highly enticing – perhaps for a future visit. With most mains coming in at £20-25 each, the pricing is comparable to many other similar London establishments (and markedly cheaper than some, such as C-London for instance). We also rated the sides, often an after-thought at many restaurants and options such as broccoli with chilli or quinoa again showed the same inventiveness as had characterised the mains. Unfortunately we did not partake in wine since this was a relatively quick working lunch, but a review of their list showed it to be considered, combining some obvious choices with a few more eclectic offerings, particularly from Europe. One small quibble was that we had to wait surprisingly long for our mains, particularly since the restaurant was not full at this stage – although this clearly would not prohibit a return visit, hopefully soon.