Sunday, 15 August 2010

galvin la chapelle

I'd heard about Galvin La Chapelle when it first opened, probably about 6 to 8 months ago. I read Giles Coren's review in the Times and knew it was where he planned to hold his wedding reception (and what a venue), I'd read the reviews in the Evening Standard, and as I always do, filed it away as a neighbourhood must-visit, saved up for a proverbial rainy day.

The Galvin brothers have expanded their mini empire into the East by opening both La Chapelle and Cafe a Vin on Spital Square and other than, of course, the delicious food on offer, the cinematic surroundings of the main restaurant which is housed in a three story high former chapel are the main attraction. Although it was too dark to take any pictures, and I also didn't want to spoil the ambiance by studiously snapping away it's a truly amazing interior. Round tables with crisp white linen, high ceilings with huge modern chandeliers - a kind of 21st century take on the monastic, white orchids and low lighting. It feels discreet and cozy, and for a week night, felt surprisingly low on the braying banker quotient that I had been worried about.

The service started the minute I booked the table, or to be more accurate the minute I tweeted about it. Although I didn't include any of the @s or hashes (I don't have this on my Mac keyboard - anyone else have this issue too?) I got a reply asking if I had any special requests - you don't get that at Pizza Express. The service continued all our way to the hostess, who apologised that Sarah Galvin couldn't be there to greet us in person. I mean wtf - she isn't omnipresent and deserves a night off! I was excited enough to be there.

We went through to the bar to order drinks, but our table was ready before we knew it. I ordered a Strawberry Royale, Mr LROC went for a whiskey, and then the serious business of choosing food began. The menu is concise and tight, with a vegetarian option for each course, several fish options and a focus on good quality meat. Descriptions are flavoured with French, but anglicised enough to seem modern and not pretentious. The wine list is also extremely detailed, bottles from L'Ermitage in France are on offer for a princely sum, but the sommelier helped us choose a French wine in our slightly more pauper-esque budget and lovely it was too.

To start I chose the Dorset Crab lasagne with veloute of girolle mushrooms, and he opted for the mediterrean vegetables and goats cheese salad. When the crab lasagne arrived it was divine, tangy, seafoody, light and perfectly complemented by the creamy mushrooms.

I went veggie for my mains, opting for the gnocchi with seasonal vegetables, and him going for something that might have been either duck or beef, but turned out to be beef. I think the gnocchi was the best I ever tasted, light and potato-y, the salty mix of broad beans and other summer loveliness was perfect. I hear that Mr LROC thought his duck/beef was cooked to perfection too.

For dessert (obviously the most important part of any meal, but sometimes an after thought) I chose the chocolate and apricot souffle, whilst delicious it could have been tangier, richer, a little bit more melty inside. It was complemented by the proposed desert wine - which was sparkling and not too sweet. The two were a perfect match.

Although we didn't try it, the cheese selection looked phenomenal, the cart passing up by looking increasingly more tempting each time.

The bill for two came to £135 including service (I asked the hostess, and was told that they do get the tips that come from the service charge) - this was for one two course and one three course dinner, pre dinner cocktails, wine, a glass of dessert wine and one coffee. And for such a fantastic evening not a high price at all.

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