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Monday, October 31, 2011

Galvin La Chapelle (London)

This is the type of place where they begin with 'A little champagne to start?' Normally we find this pushy upselling deeply irritating, but here the service staff have sufficient natural charm and are sufficiently un-stuck-up that we didn't feel all that pushed after all.

Moreover, the Maitre d' on the day was from Aberdeen and we ended up discussing the cheapest way to get to Scotland - which identified us as cheap bastards and put paid to any hopes of selling us expensive drinks.

We went for an a la carte and a prix-fix menu. While waiting we were entertained by the kitchen theater, in full view from our table, and had the chance to slowly take in the enormous, complex, almost overwhelming space of the room.

Two starters of terrines were both pleasantly moist and rich and dense in flavour. One (of game), from the fixed price menu, was more basic and offered a more obvious, saltier, punch (the side raisin puree was remarkable, however). The other, of guinea fowl, ham hock and foie gras, played on softer, more subtle and complex notes, the red onion marmalade oozing luscious sweetness. Both  were impressive in their own way.

A well executed grouse was suitably potent and flew quite high, though perhaps not as high as others (for flavour and texture) we've tried this year, here, here and here.

A simple dish of lamb, green beans, carrots and a rich fondant potato from the prix fix had deep flavour enclosed in a meat that didn't yield so easily, and supported by a classy jus; all in all a stunning dish when considered as part of a £25 menu.

The famous rhum baba' with chantilly cream (vanilla) certainly did not disappoint with its big alcohol cut and ethereal dough.

The prix fix dessert presented a tough choice between Tarte Tatin and a well presented and well kept cheese (Chaource). No prizes to guess what we chose:

Service was extremely well organised, relaxed and, as we said, charming: a very smooth machine. Compared to their cousins at Windows, while also formally attired they tend to create a less formal atmosphere.

This place reminds us a little bit, for the style of cuisine, of Koffmann's, although, to our taste, not quite at the same stupendous level. We wouldn't say it is an ultimate destination or worth regular long trips, but it is worth trying once if you are far, and worth returning if you are close. Here kitchen, Front of House and ambiance combine seamlessly to yield a pleasant, relaxing experience. We spent around £150 including very well made coffees, water, an a la carte and a prix fix menu, and a wine in the forties. Having ended on the high note of excellent espressos and petit four, we are indeed tempted to return for the tasting menu.


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