Gambling has always been a glamorous game; at least to those of us who have only experienced it on the silver screen.
Who could forget Vesper Lynd, with her velvety complexion and shadowy glare, supervising Bond’s poker chips in Casino Royale? Or Clive Owen’s Jack Manfred with his slicked-back hair, symmetrical good looks and penetrating stare in the stylish thriller The Croupier. Then of course there’s Sharon Stone’s unhinged ‘Ginger’ in Casino: the sexy expert hustler who attracts men like flies; she’s off the rails but sparkling like the bright lights of Las Vegas. And that’s before mentioning the Armani-clad ‘Brad-pack’ in Oceans Eleven. I could go on…
Sure, the alluring betting world may seem all gloss, glitz and good looks (surface as it may be) to a novice like me. But, as I learned recently at The Palm Beach Casino, it takes more than a sharp suit to make a mark on the table.
Situated in the heart of Mayfair, The Palm Beach Casino has long been a local landmark. First established in 1965 as part of The Mayfair (May Fair) Hotel, it is set in an exclusive London address that boasts plush apartments, car showrooms, Porsches and Bentleys, with not a palm tree in site.
Step inside the opulent surroundings of this venerable institution and it’s like you’ve arrived in Vegas itself; all be it a tasteful and toned-down Vegas minus the old-blue-rinse-chavs juggling buckets of coins in the lobby. For a stranger entering what could potentially be intimidating new realm, The Palm Beach is an incredibly inviting space: unpretentious and relaxed, and without a sequin in sight. Mind you, it could be a different story at three in the morning.
Since the gambling laws in Britain were relaxed in 2005 the industry has taken full advantage and gaming is now easier and fairer than ever before. I need only provide proof of my age via my driving license at reception, and I am now the proud owner of a new spangled gold Palm Beach membership card.
First things first, and after a stiff drink at the bar its time to learn the ropes. Roulette, blackjack, poker and baccarat mean no more to me than Wellies do to Carrie Bradshaw, but if I want a piece of the winning pie then a lesson is definitely on the cards.
I am escorted through the high-ceilinged, grand art deco main room and into a side gaming room, where I’m warmly welcomed by Steven, my trainer, who teaches me the ins and outs of poker.
After my somewhat whirlwind class (it’s going to take a little longer than 30 minutes to master the art of poker) it’s off to the adjacent restaurant for dinner. This first-class eatery serves international cuisine by David Laval, who’s devised a delicious menu that offers Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes of the highest standard.
Seated in front of a tank of tropical fish, my dinner date and I take in the majestic setting: white spaghetti-stringed drapes, chandeliers, mirrored walls, men in turbans and women in saris to fit with the international bill of fare.
Compliments of the chef are presented to us by the friendly waiting staff: deep fried seabass with mango, strawberry and pineapple sauce is hastily consumed before we tuck into starters of aromatic crispy duck (served with thin pancakes, hoisin sauce, ginger and garlic) and soup of the day – a deliciously creamy asparagus and leek (unfortunately because of moral reasons I had to pass on the scallop with pan-fried foie gras).
For main course I enjoy a tender salmon steak served with Indonesian coconut cream and an exotic salad of raspberries and prawns, while my dinner date delights in the Middle Eastern special: the Palm Beach Meshwi Mashakal: a mixed grill of lambkefta, shish taouk and lamb kebab served with pita bread, pepper salad and a wild garlic condiment; A rich and rewarding feast from the far corners of the globe.
As if this isn’t enough we push the faultless food and impeccable service of our hosts to the limit by indulging in dessert: crème caramel with gingerbread, and tiramisu with berry cheesecake and sponge fingers. Our chef once again pulls out all the stops by sending a complimentary tray of after-dinner chocolates to our table, presented to us by the smart and smiley waiters in waistcoats and ties. What a delightful way to end a casino experience of ‘Royale’ standard. Look out Vesper Lynd, here I come.
The Palm Beach Casino
30 Berkeley Street
Mayfair W1J 8EH
Tel: 020 7493 6585