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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Galvin at The Athenaeum - British Ingredients & Cooking at Their Absolute Best!


Name: Galvin at The Athenaeum

Where: The Athenaeum Hotel & Residencies, 116 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7BL, https://www.athenaeumhotel.com/restaurant-bar/galvin-at-the-athenaeum/

Cost: Average cost per person for a three course meal is £35 (not including drinks or service). From the à la carte menu, starters cost from £7.50 to £15.50, main courses from £16 to £28, and desserts from £5 to £8.50, with a platter of English cheeses for £12.50. There is a great value Prix Fixe menu at £23.50 for 3 courses, served at lunchtime and from 17.30 to 19.00.

About: Located on Piccadilly right opposite Green Park, the latest venture by the Galvin Brothers occupies much of the ground floor of the 5-star Athenaeum Hotel & Residencies.

Re-opened in July 2016, following a multi-million pound refurbishment, the family-run and independent The Athenaeum is the first hotel in London to have its entire food and beverage offering under the guidance of Chris and Jeff Galvin, and Executive Chef William Lloyd-Baker, who was Head Chef at Galvin La Chapelle for 4 years. 


In a first for the Galvin brothers, rather than focus on French classic cooking, the menu has a strong emphasis on fresh seasonal British produce (think Dorset crab lasagne, Dedham Vale beef steak tartare, Orkney scallops, Dingley Dell pork faggots and roast breast of Goosnargh chicken).

Despite its swanky Mayfair location, the Galvin at The Athenaeum is elegant though straightforward in design, reminiscent of Scandinavian 1970s chic, with light wood parquet floors, dark oak tables, wood and leather chairs, chrome and brown glass chandeliers.


I'm a big fan of the Galvin brothers’ cooking, and have been following their careers over the years - you can see some of my reviews from as early as 2010 for the gorgeous Galvin La Chapelle here, and more recently for Spitalfield's Galvin HOP here and Galvin at Windows (The Hilton Park Lane) here.

But how does their newest venture Galvin at The Athenaeum stack up? Read on to find out more!

What We Ate: We started with their signature dish of Dorset crab lasagne with Nantais butter sauce (£15.50). Fine looking though it was, the true beauty of the dish became apparent on cutting it open. With layers of the softest fresh pasta interleaved with pure white crab meat and scallop mousse, it was served with a tarragon-infused beurre blanc and cayenne pepper. Refined, elegant and delicious, I couldn’t have wished for a better start to our meal.


Next up was the risotto of parsley, Herefordshire snails and smoked eel (£12.50) - with English sensibility and ingredients and Burgundian inspiration, this had crispy fish crowns for contrasting crunch and tiny cubes of Granny Smith apple for freshness, paired with a rich smokiness from the eel. This was a complex, beautifully flavoured and textured dish and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 


It is rare that I do not know what to order at a restaurant, but with so many enticing options available on the new Galvin menu, we struggled to make our choices.

So when in doubt, order the lot, and we went for a cheeky intercourse - the short rib of beef (£18.50). Served with fluffy potato gnocchi, Portobello mushrooms and purple sprouting broccoli, the beef was unctuously tender and yielding, served with a thick, glossy beef and red wine reduction and slivers of English Berkswell cheese from the West Midlands. I was completely blown away by the flavours and textures in this dish, and so glad we had it!


Then on to the main courses. The Denham Estate venison (£24.50) was tender and medium rare, served with scattered jewel-like pomegranate seeds, smoked potato mash, red cabbage and mace, and a delectable chocolate sauce.  This was another magnificent dish.


The Rose county beef rib eye (£28) was soft and deliciously pink, served with a handful of mini-capers and a flavoursome green peppercorn butter. The accompanying chips were chunky, hand-cut and expertly cooked, with a side order of fine green beans (£4.50).


How I love restaurants with a proper cheese trolley, and Galvin at The Athenaeum’s was just impossible to resist. The cheese course is priced at £12.50 and I highly recommend it for a great selection of English cheeses. 


Served with celery, chutney and pickled walnuts, we chose a mixture of sheep, goat and cows cheeses including creamy Tunworth, some Lancashire bomb, the Innes (goats cheese) as well as the Beenleigh Blue (sheeps cheese). 


To finish off on a sweet note, we had the rum baba (£8) – this came with golden raisins and a dainty side-serving of Chantilly cream. Served warm and ridiculously soft and airy, this was a spectacular end to a very impressive meal. 


What We Drank: The wine list is comprehensive. The entry-level white wine is a Costieres de Nimes from Chateau Saint-Cyrgues at £28.50, while the red is a Carignan from Languedoc at £27. There is a good selection of sweet wines and Ports by the glass or bottle, and the house Champagne is an Ayala Brut Majeur NV at £14.75 per glass, which was a great choice for our aperitif. 

With our main course and cheese course, we had a bottle of Galvin Rasteau, Domaine Andre Romero, Rhone 2015 (£41.50). A Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend, this had a youthful tinge of purple, powerful berry fruit, soft tannins and a long finish.   


With cheese, we had a glass of Vinho Madeira Barbeito (£9.50). A medium-sweet wine, this had fresh tangy aromas of marmalade as well as nuts, raisins and spice.  


To accompany the rum baba, we tried a glass of Domain des Chenes from Ambre Rivesaltes, Roussilon 2006 (£7.75). This was fresher, with peach, apricot and vanilla flavours. 

Likes: The Dorset crab lasagna was to die-for and warrants a return to Galvin at The Athenaeum on its own right. There were so many other highlights too, including the short rib of beef, the parsley risotto with snails and smoked eel, the marvelous rib-eye steak and chunky, properly made chips. The rum baba was also spectacular. Great wine list.

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: With top-quality, seasonal British ingredients in the capable hands of brothers Jeff and Chris Galvin, our dinner at Galvin at The Athenaeum was one of the most memorable meals I have enjoyed so far this year. For me, this is British cooking at its absolute best. Very highly recommended.

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