Saturday, 8th October 2016 – Galvin la Chapelle, Spitalfields, London
Another Saturday, another restaurant, another Groupon deal. Post-theatre (No Man’s Land, Wyndhams Theatre) we made our somewhat convoluted way to Spitalfields, an area of London that has changed beyond all recognition in the years since I used to cut along Commerical Road to get to the A1 and all points north Back then there wasn’t much to recommend the area unless you were on the look out for cheap clothing or paid for sex. Now it’s all trendy bars and swish offices and is pretty much unrecognizable, though you amy still consider locking your car doors while driving through. Now however it’s more likely to fend off bearede hipsters who mistake you for an Uber driver.
A stop for cocktails at the Hawksmoor kept us quite happy between the taxi driver dropping us off and the time we’d booked our table for, although I must admit I found my first drink somewhat more medicinal than I like in a cocktail. The waiter did offer to take it away and replace it but I stuck with it as it was my fault for ordering something with bitters in it in the first place. The second champagne-based drink was considerably better.
Suitably fortified we set off into the night to try and locate Galvin la Chapelle, not easy when your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, it’s dusk and you’re armed only with a mini London A-to-Z. We eventually located it by hailing a taxi driver who was stuck in a traffic jam and asking him if he could point us in the correct direction. He could!
And so we found ourselves in the rather lovely old chapel that has now been converted to a high end restaurant. A problem with many such buildings is the noise level created in such an echoey sort of space by even a handful of talkative diners. There appeared to be no such issues here and not only did the sound of other diners not intrude, we were actually able to hear each other clearly, not something you can always say about restaurant tables.
They’ve made the most of the space, and it’s full of candles and soft lights, with the kitchen on show to one side. We were soon settled at our table, and with glass of champagne in hand, it was time to choose our food. We were on the chef’s menu, a carefully chosen three course menu, and it was no trouble at all to find dishes we knew we’d enjoy. A small bowl of olives was delivered alongside the drinks.
The down side of the Groupon kicked in at this point though when we were only allowed one slice of bread each before the butter and the bread plates were whisked away, but to be honest at under £30 each including a drink, I can see why they were making savings where they could. The starters arrived as we were finishing our fizz, and were lovely. The creamy warm pumpkin veloute was served with old comté cheese (one of my favourite cheeses) and a soft, sticky braised chestnut and while I would have prefferd it hotter, it was still delicious.
We followed it up with a very well executed confit duck leg. Now I know I can produce this at home, and it’s not that difficult, but it is time consuming, and I do love it. It might not showcase their Michelin-star skills, but it does speak of a kitchen that knows what it’s doing. It was also sufficient of a taster to make me want to go back and hit the tasting menu or the a la carte menu some time in the not too distant future. The duck was suitably s0ft, falling apart when you took a knife to it, and was served with soft turnips, and lots of quinoa which soaked up the sauces very satisfactorily. It was very much the sort of dish you would be very happy to find in a French provincial restaurant.
We drank a bottle of 2010 Madiran, Château Bouscassé with it, partly because it seemed a most appropriate accompaniment to a south-western French dish, and partly because it was one of the less painfully priced reds on the wine list at £48, a wine list that starts with a handful of bottles under £50 and rapidly accelerates towards a stratospheric 1961 Hermitage La Chapelle at £19,500!
There was enough left in the bottle to go nicely with our dessert, a red plum brulée, with a spiced plum compote and a lovely, light, friable honey madeleine.
We shared one of these between us as we also wanted the cheese, which was a portion of morbier with grape chutney and walnuts, reminiscent of my time in the Grenoble area., where the locals are VERY proud of their walnuts, and one of my colleagues there made the world’s most lethal walnut wine.
We finished up and paid up before heading out into the night in possession of a Galvin loyalty card. The appearance of a Groupon offer for the relatively new Galvin at the Athenaeum was enough to get me interested enough to shell out so we shall be going there some time in the new year.