Name: Galvin at Windows
Where: 28th Floor, London Hilton on Park Lane, 22 Park Lane, London, W1K 1BE, http://www.galvinatwindows.com/
Cost: The 6-course Korean tasting menu costs £115 (or with wine pairings at £169, or including wine pairings and a welcome cocktail at £189)
About: Entry to Galvin at Windows could hardly be more dramatic. Situated on the 28th floor of the famous Hilton Hotel on swanky Park Lane, the lift whisked us from the hotel's lobby in a matter of seconds, to be greeted by a spectacular view over Hyde Park to Knightsbridge, Kensington and Bayswater.
Opened in 2006, Galvin at Windows, at the top of Park Lane's Hilton Hotel, was awarded a Michelin star in 2010. Korean Head Chef Joo Won has been at the restaurant since the start, and has made his way through the ranks from Commis to Head Chef, which he achieved in 2013.
Now for the month of October 2016, Chef Joo Won is presenting a special Korean menu featuring some classic dishes from his home country. We were there to try his Korean inspired 6-course tasting menu.
What We Ate and Drank: We opted for the Menu Degustation Deluxe, which included a Korean Soju Sour cocktail. With apple juice, cucumber, a drop of bitters and egg white, this was strong and refreshing, with crisp acidity from the green apple.
With the cocktail we enjoyed a couple of amuse bouche – they were chilli spiced chicken and some light and delicately flavoured kimchi arancini. To follow we also had a clear, flavoursome fish soup with clam, tofu, spring onion, chilli and radish.
The first starter was raw Orkney scallops served with soy bean puree, confit ginger, crushed peanuts, chilli and nori powder. Cleverly conceived, this had great texture and heat from the crunchy peanut and chillies against the delicate raw scallop.
It was served with a glass of Bekseju, Kooksoondan, Korea. This blend of aged rice wine, ginseng and herbs was aromatic, with a herbaceous and vegetal nose, with oxidised overtones which reminded me of a Sercial dry madeira. I thoroughly enjoyed it by itself, but its flavour profile was transformed by the pairing with the scallop, taking on rich and complex caramel-like notes.
The salad of raw crispy vegetable was next - we loved the the combination of raw and tempura vegetables with sweet, chilli and herbaceous sauces (chilli dressing, sweet soy and seaweed emulsion) and with an excellent balance of texture and flavour. The salad had a mix of different ingredients including baby carrot, onion, cucumber, radish, Padron pepper, mushroom, tempura-style spring onion and glazed fig.
With it, we were served a glass of Vouvray, Domain Champalou, Loire Valley, France 2015. Made from the Chenin Blanc grape, this was a well-made, off dry wine, with quince and pear on the palate.
The seared foie gras, served on toasted brioche, with mushroom fricassee, red wine jus, elderberries and blackberries had kimchi as the Korean touch. Delicious as it was, I did not feel the creamy foie gras was a great match to the spicy kimchi.
To partner the foie gras, the menu matched a glass of Soju- Hwayo 25% and home-fermented plum juice. This had quite an alcoholic burn, but was rich and semi-sweet. I enjoyed it as drink, but with the foie gras, the combination was noticeably greater than the sum of the parts.
The main course was marinated Iberico pork bulgogi, with barbecued chilli squid and cucumber salad, served with flaxseed rice, soy and spring onion. The pork (pluma cut) was soft and rich with great marbling (though a tad overcooked, the best way of eating Iberico pluma is medium rare in my opinion), the squid was however tender and spicy.
The pork was paired with a deliciously silky glass of Pinot Noir Jubilee, from Hugel, Alsace, France 2009.
Pre-dessert was a Greek yoghurt sorbet with pine nut, blackberry and shiso granita. The sorbet was refreshingly light, and the shizo granita delicate and herbaceous.
We finished with a magnificent Korean dessert of white chocolate and deonjang cremeaux (made from soy), with Castella sponge (ultra-light Portuguese sponge cake, much loved in Asia), caramelised red bean, pomegranate and pumpkin ice cream. I am not a dessert person but for me this was the highlight of our meal – light, creamy, and not overly sweet, it had a great combination of unexpected flavours and wonderful textures.
To accompany it we had a glass of Korean Myungjak Bokbunja, Kooksoondang. Made from fermented raspberry and wild strawberry, this was 13 per cent alcohol. To my palate, it was a naive drink - fresh and very fruity, but devoid of acidity, complexity or interest.
Likes: Our favourite dishes were the crispy vegetable salad, the Orkney scallop and the magnificent Korean dessert. Service was excellent.
Verdict: We thoroughly enjoyed chef Joo Won’s cooking and his refined Korean-French tasting menu, dishes were well conceived and faultlessly executed. If you would like to try his Korean tasting menu at Galvin at Windows, you will need to hurry, as it is only available during October 2016. Recommended.