Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Restaurant Review: Galvin at Windows

There's something incredibly decadent and indulgent in treating yourself to a long, lazy lunch on a weekday when everyone else is at work. Even more so when you choose Galvin at Windows for your special treat!

Last Friday I'd taken a day's holiday to forget about the world of work and start my weekend off with a bit of 'me' time, which in my case invariably involves food, a glass of bubbly and, well, maybe some more food.

Armed with a good book in case I got bored (which I didn't) of staring out over London from the 28th floor of the Hilton on Park Lane, I made my way in good time for my 1.30pm reservation at Galvin at Windows. Of course, I managed to get lost (which is rather difficult seeing as all I had to do was walk from Marble Arch down Park Lane, but, if you know me, is no surprise - I'm not known for my sense of direction) which meant I arrived bang on time.

I was a little apprehensive about going to such a grand restaurant on my own. Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not averse to eating alone when there's noone around to join me, but I'd never done the starched white table cloth and attentive service thing alone before. I really need not have worried. In fact, I'd do it again in a jiffy! There was no little table in the corner out of sight of the other diners for me (as I had feared). After a warm welcome I was shown to a table in amongst the other diners and, incidentally, right behind another solo diner - a gentleman who, I am told, eats there alone about three times a week and who certainly seemed to be a part of the Galvin family.

I could have gone for the Credit Crunch Lunch, but as I was treating myself, I didn't want to limit myself to 3 choices (although they would have been more than adequate!). Instead I'd opted for the Twitter Menu - the Menu Prestige plus a glass of champagne for £48. Not cheap that's for sure, but well worth every single one of those 4,800 English pennies...

My glass of bubbly arrived as I settled back to peruse the menu and grazed on some deliciously light olive sourdough (I say grazed...I'd polished the whole lot off before the end of my main course). Before I'd even had chance to decide what I wanted to eat, I think at least 4 people had asked me if I was OK. I certainly wasn't neglected, but perhaps a touch smothered at first...

My starter of seared Scottish scallops, crispy peanuts, curry oil, cauliflower puree & braised leeks was, quite simply, divine. Perfectly cooked, sweet scallop and velvety cauliflower puree. The crispy peanuts were unusual but worked well with the other flavours and the crunch added texture and lifted the dish. My only criticism (if I was really scrabbling for one) would be that the baby leeks were a tad difficult to cut so I had to hone my eating-things-without-looking-silly skills.

For mains I had toyed with the idea of the fillet of braised turbot over fresh peas, girolles, braised gem lettuce & light jus gras, but the 'jus gras' is made with veal stock, so on the waiter's recommendation I went for the 'lighter' seared fillet of wild sea bass, braised fennel, tomato & sauce vierge. I'm not sure whether his recommendation was based on his view that I needed to shed a few pounds or that I might be a lady who lunches for whom light is the key. Whichever way I was happy with my choice, with one exception - the coriander shoots. Why, oh why are chefs obsessed with these micro shoots? They look pretty and add some vibrancy, granted, but the overpowering taste of coriander (which to some people tastes like dirty wet pet hair smells) is too much. So, having scraped them all to one side of my plate I continued - with each forkful some tender sea bass, crispy skin, sweet tomato flesh, salty black olive and the simplicity of a good quality vinaigrette. It was light as the waiter had promised. And simple. The choice of a vinaigrette over a heavier sauce was genius and one I plan to replicate at home this summer. All washed down with a glass of Chablis.

Just as the waiter was about to take my plate away I realised there was lovely juice left so promptly mopped it up with my last scrap of the sourdough. Delightful.

Next stop - the dessert menu. Now, had I not been dining alone there would have been no competition. The tarte tatin. I'm going back at some point just to taste that beauty! Before I could make my mind up, Michele (the Restaurant Manager) offered me a tour of the kitchens which I jumped at. It amazed me how calm it was in there - I guess I had expected shouting and crashing and banging Ramsey-style. We stepped out onto a balcony out the back of the kitchen to a view which is out of this world. As Michele and I chatted about work/life balance and the best Italian restaurants in London we gazed out over Buckingham Palace to the right, the City ahead and Crystal Palace in the distance. It was breathtaking.

On the way back to my table I asked the chefs on the dessert section what to choose and received a resounding vote in favour of the strawberry panacotta with wild strawberries. Oh my were they spot on! The plate looked so pretty and summery - a small rich, smooth panacotta topped with strawberry jelly with the most amazingly intense flavoured wild strawberries on the side. Every mouthful was a joy. It was my first taste of wild strawberries and I was amazed at how something so small can taste so good.

By now I felt right at home and could have settled in for the afternoon! Coffee came in the form of a double espresso (followed by another which rendered me useless and on a caffeine high for the rest of the afternoon) served with salted caramels, madagascan truffles and chocolate coated raspberry jelly truffles. They looked exquisite! Just to be sure that the raspberry one was as good as I thought it was I had to ask for some more and prepared myself to have to be rolled out of there.

It was a truly memorable lunch for all the right reasons - amazing setting with the views over London, attentive and friendly service and damn fine food!

A final note to Fred - you must do the tarte tatin competition and count me in!

Damage: £48 twitter menu (3 courses from the menu prestige plus a glass of champagne and coffee & chocolates)

Galvin at Windows
22 Park Lane
Tel: 020 7208 4021

Galvin at Windows on Urbanspoon


  1. Oh hey, I recognise those chocolates! They are by Artisan du Chocolat! Nyum!

    Sounds like a wonderful meal and excellent service!

    If you fancy taking another day off work sometime during the week (I am a lazy cow and do my best to avoid working five days a week) I'd love to meet for lunch somewhere in town!

  2. what an incredible view, and that strawberry dessert looks quite the business! You're so lucky that they showed you around the kitchens always a good sign. This might just be next on my list of places to eat out...

  3. Kavey - The chocolates were divine! I'm not usually a chocolate person (I prefer fruity desserts) but those raspberry ones had me hooked! Lunch some time sounds a lovely idea.

    Gastrogeek - The view was like no other I've seen in London and I wasn't expecting it as we walked out of the door onto the balcony (I was too busy talking...) so it took my breath away. The La Carte menu for dinner is good value (£33) so you should try to take advantage, but I think it only runs to the end of June.

  4. I really enjoyed it too as you know. I agree with you on the service though - a little bit too attentive!

  5. oh my, now where do i get a spare £48 from in a hurry???

  6. It sounds like a great leisurely lunch. I'm not used to dining alone but certainly wouldn't avoid it; I like the idea of treating yourself like this!