db Eats: Galvin at Windows

12th October, 2017 by Lucy Shaw

db’s resident foodie, Lucy Shaw, heads to the Michelin-starred French fancy up in the clouds for heavenly hake, precise Puligny-Montrachet and a decadent apple tatin.

The concept: Bothers Chris and Jeff Galvin have quietly but confidently built a robust restaurant empire over the last decade, which began with Galvin Bistro de Luxe in Baker Street and has gone on to include the Michelin-starred La Chapelle in Spitalfields, Demoiselle at Harrods, The Pompadour in Edinburgh and Galvin Dubai.

Galvin at Windows is their grande dame. Opening in 2006, a year later it gained a Michelin star, which it has retained ever since. Remarkably for a London restaurant, many members of the founding team remain, from the fabulous Fred Sirieix, who found fame on the Channel 4 show First Dates, where he oozes Gallic charm and imparts pearls of wisdom, to Korean-born head chef Joo Won.

Seared yellow fin tuna

The décor: Located up in the clouds on the 28th floor of The Hilton hotel on Park Lane, the restrained, elegant space makes the most of the panoramic views over London. There’s something rather quaint and charming about the dining room that feels like a throwback to another era of dining.

London’s thrust towards casual dining, loud music and bare tables isn’t felt here – at Windows the old fashioned quality cues of starched white tablecloths and a swarm of waiters adroitly navigating the room are all present and correct. We were greeted by three different members of staff moments after sitting down.

Adding character to the room is a giant twisting metal sculpture suspended from the ceiling. I chose to sit facing out to enjoy the city glittering in the background.

The food: Like the décor, the food is classic in nature, favouring French haut cuisine over madcap mash-ups of textures and flavours. Seasonality is the focus here, so the menu changes regularly depending on what Won can get his hands on.

The prices are rather alarming – three courses will set you back £82, but I suppose you’re paying for the view. Our meal began with a vivid pink watermelon consommé to cleanse our palates and whet our appetites. With it came a golden glass of Galvin-branded house Champagne, a rich, accomplished blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that would give most of the Grandes Marques competition.

Amid French classics are fun Asian accented dishes like a comforting creamy kimchi risotto laced with sesame and topped with a gooey slow-cooked egg. My starter of seared yellowfin tuna with dots of avocado purée was fantastically fresh. Topped with salty globes of salmon roe and unannounced triangles of juicy orange, it offered a salty citrus symphony of flavours.

Roasted hake fillet with a Beaufort crust

Like the orange in the tuna dish, flecks of bitter greens found their way into the girolles-flecked tagliatelle. I rather liked this rebellious flouting of the rules, as it gives Won’s obsession with seasonality more credibility, the menu acting more as a suggestion of how the dish will come out.

Signature dishes: We were advised by our waiter to order the roasted hake fillet, which didn’t disappoint. Sitting on a swirl of creamy cauliflower purée, the ample hunk had a crunchy golden Beaufort cheese crust that added wonderful texture and depth to the dish, which was confidently cooked on the brink of pink.

Being a Brit, I was slightly worried at how pink the flesh was in places, but it gave an ethereal silkiness to the fish with added interest from an earthy autumnal medley of wild mushrooms, sweetcorn and pancetta beneath. The rogue ingredient this time was a spear of spring onion.

The drinks: Like the food, wines are pricey here and mark ups steep. With our fish feast we stuck to a trio of whites: Marqués de Murrieta Capellania 2014 from Rioja; Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet 2015; and La Crema Chardonnay 2014 from Sonoma.

All were intriguing, but the Puligny stole the show with its elegance and grace, while the La Crema’s flamboyant buttery backbone paired perfectly with the cheese-crusted hake.

Who to know: General manager Fred Sirieix, a boxing-loving, deep thinking showman who could charm even the iciest of hearts. Disappointingly, he was busy filming First Dates on the day of my visit, and the dining room lacked the effervescence of his presence.

Don’t leave without: Ordering dessert. The apple tatin with caramel sauce and rosemary ice cream was a wonder, the pastry light and flaky, the caramel in no way cloyingly sweet, and the apples warm and giving. The star of the plate however, was the snow-white rosemary ice cream, which added a lovely herbal, element into the mix.

Last word: Galvin at Windows is a special occasion restaurant. With its Michelin star, stunning views and lofty price points, it’s ideal for when you’ve got something to celebrate. Service is slick but slightly too formal, the food is classic but with irreverent flourishes, and the wines are delicious but expensive.

With so much choice in London, restaurants have to work hard to win customers, and can no longer rely on their reputation to fill tables. Windows charms in many ways and is no doubt a hit with toursits who want the classic London experience – old school service and a room with a view.

Galvin at Windows, 22 Park Lane, London W1K 1BE; Tel: +44 (0)20 7208 4021

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