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Galvin La Chapelle - a French restaurant in the City of London

Rating: 92.
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What's a chefs' chef? It is someone whose food other chefs really like to eat and this year's AA Chefs' Chef of the Year (2011-2012) award went to Chris and Jeff Galvin. Over the past couple of years the Galvin brothers have built something of culinary empire in London. Both Chris and Jeff trained with some of the biggest names in the industry both in Britain and France. They opened their first restaurant, Galvin Bistro de Luxe, in 2005; a second restaurant, Galvin at Windows (1 Michelin star), followed in 2006. In November 2009 Galvin La Chapelle and Café à Vin were opened and the latest addition to the Galvin empire, Galvin Demoiselle, a bistro designed and run by Sara Galvin (Chris Galvin's wife), opened in Harrods in March this year.

Galvin La Chapelle is located in a stunning Grade II listed Victorian building in Spitalfields which has the most spectacular 30 meter high ceiling. La Chapelle was awarded a Michelin star in January 2011 just 13 months after the restaurant had opened. Chef-patron of La Chapelle is Jeff Galvin.
La Chapelle is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. The restaurant offers a 'Prix Fixe' menu' (3 courses, lunch £26.50, dinner £29.50), a 'Gourmand' menu (7 courses £70) and there's the a la carte menu. I had lunch at Galvin La Chapelle on Saturday 28 April 2012 and enjoyed the Gourmand menu.

First course was Lasagne of Dorset crab & bisque. Beautiful thin discs of pasta with a delicious and airy crab and scallop mousse filling. The bisque, made with crab and langoustines, was nice and buttery and had a good depth of flavour. A rich dish with intense seafood flavours but the light texture of the crab and scallop mousse made it very digestible.

Second course, Pressed Landes chicken, Bayonne ham & foie gras, red onion marmalade. An excellent terrine of chicken, foie gras, Bayonne ham and some shallot in the middle served with a lovely salad of frisée, chervil and gherkins. Gorgeous rich and dark flavours from the onion marmalade. A wonderful dish with a great balance of flavours.

On to the third course, English asparagus with truffle vinaigrette. Lovely well-seasoned asparagus that still had a bite to them. The dressing was made from dairy cream, truffle and olive oil and had a mayonnaise-like consistency; lovely. A simple but fantastic dish.

Fourth course, Roast monkfish, étuvé of English leeks, red wine salsify, chorizo and brown shrimps. An absolutely stunning piece of monkfish, one of the finest I have ever eaten. Wonderful firm and flavoursome brown shrimps, a perfect pairing for the monkfish as was the chorizo, which added contrast and texture. Lovely vegetables too, wonderful soft leeks and divine salsify with a fantastic touch of sweetness. I would have never thought I would use the word 'divine' in the same sentence as 'salsify' but believe me they were. A flawless dish with very precise textures and sweet, salty and buttery flavours.

Fifth course, Tagine of Bresse pigeon and leg, couscous, aubergine purée, harissa sauce, garlic, spinach, quail's egg. The essence of pigeon breast and the essence of tagine in a very sophisticated combination. The whole clearly was more than the sum of its parts. Perfectly cooked, succulent pigeon breast served with a sensational harissa, coriander and chilli sauce. Both the pigeon and the sauce had a fantastic depth of flavour, I loved the hint of cumin in the harissa sauce. Wonderful soft and sweet roast garlic. Lovely texture from the crisp filo pastry in which the leg meat was served. Very precise use of herbs and spices in this dish, the subtle heat in the harissa sauce was exquisite. If I had to describe this dish in one word I would say: thrilling.

Sixt course, Fourme d'Ambert, pear chutney and walnuts. A lovely and elegant cheese course.

Seventh course, Apple tarte tatin and creme fraiche. Stephanie and Caroline Tatin would have approved of this glorious tarte tatin, brilliant crisp puff pastry and delicious sticky apples, everything beautifully caramelised. Thankfully, the recipe can be found in "Galvin, a Cookbook de Luxe" (Jeff & Chris Gavin, Absolute Press 2011).

Galvin La Chapelle proclaims itself to be a French restaurant. French restaurants in the UK tend to be run by chefs and restaurateurs of French descent. Had the Galvin brothers been from Gaul, this restaurant would no doubt have been called 'Gauvin La Chapelle' with 'Geoffroy' behind the stove. The Galvin brothers however are very British indeed and Galvin La Chapelle is clearly one of the jewels in the crown of their London culinary empire, an impressive empire that took them less than a decade to build. I had a fabulous lunch at La Chapelle. Under the aegis of Jeff Galvin the kitchens of La Chapelle produce excellent modern French food and sometimes truly outstanding dishes (such as the monkfish and the pigeon). The menu was very well constructed with top-quality British and French ingredients and attention for seasonality. La Chapelle is an enchanting restaurant in every respect: the food, the ambiance and the service. Vive La Chapelle!

Galvin La Chapelle on Urbanspoon

Posted 09-05-2012


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