Galvin La Chapelle
Recently I was celebrating an important anniversary and decided that it was time to treat myself and Dr G to something a little special. Galvin la Chapelle seemed liked the natural choice.
Housed at St Botolph’s Church Hall, a Victorian grade II listed building, the brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin provide a setting that is magnificent, and can rise to any occasion.
Think high (20 metre) ceilings, exposed wooden beams, long arched windows and massive church-like chandeliers. Freshly cut flowers are ubiquitous. The Galvin brothers have created a highly theatrical space for their restaurant with great elegance.
Front-of-House staff were friendly, inviting us to sit at the bar while our table was being prepared. However, it was not until 30 minutes later, when I reminded them of our reservation, that we were shown to our table. We were surprised by this because by that time (10.15pm), there were plenty of vacant tables.
Service from then on was faultless - our waiter was friendly, efficient and discreet throughout. The menu was short, seasonal and well thought out, and before long we had placed our orders.
Our first starter, the “Lasagne of Dorset crab, velouté of chanterelles” @ £11.50 was a well presented dish, with layers of light and delicious crab mousse interspaced with fresh pasta in a foamy crab sauce. The mushrooms added to the delicate crab flavour giving a rich, earthy, almost truffle-like finish.
The “Terrine of Landaise Foie Gras and leeks in truffle vinaigrette” @ £12.50 was also good and looked fantastic. Although the visual symmetry of the dish was appealing, to my palate, the leek almost overwhelmed the foie gras.
The pièce de resistance however was the “Roast Chateaubriand in Hermitage jus with truffle macaroni” (for two) @ £53. With great aplomb, the beef tenderloin was brought to our table with a whole roasted garlic head, and carved by our friendly waiter. The meat was flavoursome, juicy, and sublimely tender, served with a highly concentrated sauce reduction made with Hermitage wine.
The “Truffle Macaroni” was a splendid accompaniment, the highly scented truffle shavings combining well with the cheesy pasta, an elision I would have never thought feasible.
One of the desserts was the “Selection of French farmhouse cheeses” @ £10.50. I normally order a platter of cheese to finish off the red wine but on this occasion I wanted to see how La Chapelle’s own cheese board would compare to my all-time favourite Chez Bruce’s.
Having to go down a level to where the cheese board was rather than it being brought up to our table was a bit odd. Despite boasting a good range of French farmhouse cheeses, I still believe La Chapelle is not on a par with Chez Bruce’s (where the cheese board is brought to you). The selection I chose was nevertheless quite delicious – they were mostly unpasteurised, pungent and creamy.
This was followed by “Chilled Chocolate Fondant, banana yoghurt ice cream and honeycomb” @ £8.50. We were impressed by the presentation and flavours of this dessert. Bitter chocolate and bananas is, in my opinion, one of the best combinations of flavour in any comfort/feel good dessert. The addition of honeycomb was inspired, giving an extra layer of texture and complexity.
Their wine list was as expected very impressive with bottles starting from around the £20 mark but escalating steeply upwards. The Rhône is one of my favourite wine regions in France (Burgundy being top of the list) and for the occasion I ordered a 2007 bottle of Rasteau @ £39. The Rasteau was as good as I remembered it to be, and partnered our beef and cheeses perfectly.
The total bill was £159 including a serious wine and 12.5% service. Looking at the bill I was pleasantly surprised to see that La Chapelle only charges £1.50 for its bottle of water (normally priced at £4 or above at similar restaurants).
We spent just under £100 for our food bill (or £50 per person), and I consider this to be good value for a restaurant of this calibre. I have, on many occasions, spent similar sums for very mediocre meals in the West End of London.
Verdict – Spectacular setting for any special occasion with food to match. Friendly and efficient waiting service but slightly let down by front of house staff. I will certainly return to try the more affordable 3-course prix fixé menu @ £24.50 (lunch only) or the less grand Galvin Café de Luxe also at the same venue.