Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Galvin la Chapelle Spitalfields Market - the grand old dame


Address: 35 Spital Square,
London E1 6DX
Tel: 020 7299 0400
Nearest Tube station:
Shoreditch High Street/ Liverpool Street

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £30pp (3 course set lunch)
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ****
Service: *****
Ambience: *****
Parents would have to admit it gets a bit trying going for a nice meal (frankly, your weekly trip to Giraffe doesn't really count). If not for L's recommendation, we probably would have hesitated lunching at Galvin La Chapelle, at least not without splashing out a small fortune for a babysitter. "They are really nice to young children!" L assured us. Well, we took her word for it as she's in the same boat too.

Housed in St Botolph's Church Hall, a Victorian building, with its tall windows, high ceilings and exposed roof beams, few restaurants, perhaps other than Gilbert Scott, could rival Galvin La Chapelle in terms of ancient grandeur. Although the famed Galvin brothers sought to fit the full service restaurant into the confines of the former hall, they couldn't resist filling the area just above the kitchen with more dining tables. Which is just as well for it does break the monotony of the tall stone walls.

The host quickly came to our aid when he saw me struggling with LO's stroller and managed to lift it up and down the stairs without waking her up, which takes some effort. Having got its first Michelin star in 2011, Galvin La Chapelle comes with all the bells and whistles. The service was efficient and friendly without being patronising - when a staff tried to open up a champagne bottle right next to LO who was still sleeping, he reassured me that there should not be any sound if he did it the right way. Nevertheless he opened the bottle a couple of tables away instead and we didn't even realise when the bottle was popped. Bravo.

Galvin La Chapelle offers a 3 course menu, which is very reasonably priced at £25.50pp and we went for that. Starters came in the form of Jerusalem artichoke verloute and terrine of autumn game. Diced artichoke was first presented in a huge soup bowl with the verloute slowly poured in, finally engulfing it. The white creamy sauce (cooked with fish stock if my tastebuds served me right) made for a good appetizer with the tuber bits adding that extra crunch. The terrine came across as a tad meaty but was well tempered by the white raisin puree's acidity.

The starters got our hopes up high for the mains, and we weren't disappointed. I was a bit nervous going for roast chicken breast. Chicken, on its own, is rather bland. Galvin la Chapelle's roast breast of corn fed chicken is anything but. Served neatly cut with a thin sheath of slightly crisped skin on boiled greens, the tender chicken breast was flavoured by frothed mushroom verloute. What impressed me the most was the shallot tatin that laid alongside the chicken breast. The pastry, lightly baked, provided a nice twist to the dish. Sea bream, as Wife quickly pointed out, was cooked to perfection. Thin crispy skin, lightly salted, masked the fresh sea bream, which pulled cleanly away when cut. The samphire was a nice touch, nibbling it brought forth the salty goodness of the shore. 

Dessert was pont leveque with pear chutney and caramalised quince on sable breton. Unfortunately, neither cheese nor fruits is my idea of dessert so the pont leveque and quince were lost on me. I thought that the savoury cheese was a curious desert selection but maybe it is just me. Nevertheless, the pear chutney balanced it off nicely.

In my humble opinion, the true mark of a great restaurant is that you remember having a great time there even long after but couldn't really remember why. I've always believed that a meal is much more than the food placed in front you. Ambiance, service, the company that you're with, even which side of the bed you got off in the morning affects the meal itself, which is why it's coined as the dining experience. What I do know however is that we did have enjoyed ourselves quite a bit despite LO fussing halfway through the meal. This is one restaurant that I would wholeheartedly recommend you to.

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