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Restaurant review: Prime Steak and Grill, The Clarendon

PUBLISHED: 10:00 13 February 2016

Prime Steak and Grill

Prime Steak and Grill

Archant

A noted restaurant at Chandler’s Cross has changed direction. Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne went to investigate

Prime Steak and GrillPrime Steak and Grill

Prime Steak and Grill is the latest name outside the door of the Clarendon in Chandler’s Cross. The former pub, known first as the Clarendon Arms, then by its first name alone, was transformed into an ambitious restaurant in 2009 but closed four years later. It had some good reviews but was criticised for high prices.

It is similarly upmarket in its new guise but the emphasis now, as the name suggests, is heavily on steak. There is some variety in the menu but non-steak fans might be disappointed and vegetarians apparently must make do with a choice of just two dishes, which on the night of my visit were halloumi burger or pumpkin ravioli.

On the other hand, I wasn’t there to go vegetarian. Prime is already established in St Albans and this second outlet similarly makes no secret of where its speciality lies. And though it opened only late last year, signs are it already has a following, helped by word-of-mouth from the mother-ship and also by the fact we found little to criticise in our meal.

Prime Steak and GrillPrime Steak and Grill

One reason for Prime’s popularity could be one of those cunning marketing tricks you come across now and again and which I recommend to other restaurants – the BYOB night, as in bring your own bottle. Both Prime restaurants have this policy on Mondays, so I went on a Monday, not always the best night to test a place, and the Clarendon was packed. I took a decent red, which was taken from me on arrival, opened, and served graciously at table throughout the meal. Comparing it to what was available on the wine list, I reckon something similar would have been around £25 at restaurant prices. I have no objection to paying that sort of price for a good bottle to accompany a meal, but with BYOB, why should I?

Other than the vegetarian offers, choices for non-steak eaters ranged from 10 starters, with crispy salt-and-pepper squid and pan-seared scallops prominent, to the Prime burger, pork belly, chicken, calves’ liver, salmon, sea bass or yellow-fin tuna. Our party of four on the other hand, along apparently with most of the rest of the crowd, were there to eat steak. Rib-eye, pavé rump, sirloin and fillet come in small (200g and up) to medium (280g and up) sizes and range in price from £19 for a 225g rump to £35 for a 280g fillet. A 350g bone-in rib-eye is £32, a 280g marinated sirloin £26 and 200g of surf and turf £35. If you’re hungry or want to share, stars of the show are a 600g chateaubriand at £59 or a 1,000g porterhouse at £65.

Price aside, it’s a pretty standard line-up for a restaurant of this kind. Prime says what makes it different is the quality of the meat, which it is quick to point out is ‘sourced exclusively from the Queen’s butcher from grass-fed ethically reared herds and dry-aged for a minimum of 21 days’.

As far as our table was concerned, it was fair comment. We worked our way through a rib-eye, a sirloin and a marinated sirloin, while the boldest of us chose the 280g fillet and despite my best efforts I couldn’t raise a word of complaint. I had the usual quibble about being charged extra for side dishes – an average of £3.70 each – which is just bad PR, and one guest found the music intrusive because the speaker was too close to his end of the table. To offset that, the surroundings are modern, with trendy lighting, lots of exposed brickwork and properly-dressed tables, and service was polite and attentive. It would have been an enjoyable visit on any day. For a Monday, BYOB and all, it was a notable success.

The cost of dinner for two at Prime Steak and Grill the Clarendon was £66, including service, for two steaks, two side dishes and one dessert.

This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and visited by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

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