Have you seen that advert for Sky on Demand? You know, where Idris Elba is in a spectacularly tight jumper and goes on about great TV that everyone else is going on about and you have to mutter a comedy grumpy ‘I aven’t seeyn it’? Well that advert is how I have felt for some time about the Galvin brothers and their little culinary empire. There was a dinner that clashed with a wedding a year or so ago, oh we went to Galvin. Ok, never heard of it. Oh it was fantastic was it?
Then there’s a great bit of dinner, where’d you get the recipe? Oh, the Galvin book. No, no I’ve not got it. What’d you get for Christmas? Oh dinner at Galvin. Not been there no. Everyone in the know seems to be reading, making and going to bloody Galvin apart from me. Not that I’m bitter or childish, I just wanted to know! A little hype is a good thing, it interests, it excites but for me too much hype destroys and irritates. I’ll get bored quickly and outraged into unjustified avoidance of anything I’ve heard too much about, especially if people insist that I will enjoy it. Well maybe I wont, just to show you! Anyway, around came Father’s Day and my lucky old man got to indulge in his annual treat of taking his wife and children out for a dinner that he pays for.
He is truly spoiled.
He is also a big fan of the Galvin Phenomenon and decided that we would all celebrate his general Dad skills at La Chapelle in Spitalfields. Oooh. Time to put all these shining reviews to the test, time to see if the hype is worth all the, er, hype and time to see if their famous signature Tart Tartin really is worth writing home about.
Fun fact, my elder sibling came second this year in the Pomme D’Or- an annual tart tartin contest run by the brothers Galvin. He’s met them and swapped selfies and pastry stories and everything, and I am in the corner saying No, I aven’t beeyn yet!
Outrage aside, lets get to the point. Actually first, let’s get everyone caught up: The Galvin set up is a family affair since 2005 headed up by the exotically named brothers Chris and Jeff. They have seven sites in all, most in London with two new spots in lovely Edinburgh. Cuisine is modern, French, and not shy of a Michelin Star. Their own mission statement is a desire to “offer high quality French cuisine, served in luxurious surroundings by warm, hospitable and professional front of house”. They also have a rather lovely looking book, Cook Book de Luxe.
Cut back to the action, it’s Father’s Day, it’s Sunday lunch and it’s La Chapelle, the third Galvin joint to open, situated behind a very unassuming doorway in Spitalfields. Cut to greeting from marvellous welcoming host staff who just managed to be smiley without being sickly. Cut to some quiet, slightly shabby live lounge room Jazz style band banging out unlikely cover versions in the bar. Cut to beautiful, high ceilinged space with ingeniously placed mirrors and resultingly fantastic light. Cut to the menu, let’s cut to the chase.
To start, a Dorset crab ‘lasagne’, which I was quite insistently guided to by my more experienced companions against my initial lean towards quail, I went with majority recommendation. It’s something of a signature dish, a beautifully light, almost mousse like crab stack served with some thin and silky pasta, pea shoots and sauce. Absolutely fantastic, I could have eaten three of them. The boy had the quail, it looked good but I stand by my choice.
To main, chateaubriand with some veggie bits and quail eggs, some truffley stuff too and two show stealing short rib nibblets. Outstanding. Melt in the mouth beef, gorgeously plated and just wonderful to consume. I just drooled a bit into my keyboard. I’m no stranger to good steak, and this went beyond it. Also nice to see if served in a single portion, a rarity in my experience for this cut, and a welcome one as we don’t always have someone who wants to share.
To dessert, to the inevitable Tart Tartin. Crispy, whisper away from overdone pastry, succulent apples, rich caramel, crème fraiche quenelle. Delightful as expected, but is is as good at Big Bros? I’m not sure I’ll ever tell. The other boy had a chocolate fondant affair which looked pretty amazing too. And if that wasn’t enough, in true French style you can expect some to die for petit fours with your double espresso, a lovely touch to round off things and ensure you leave without the merest space left in your tummy.
So the food gets a tick, as does the wine list. The swish building gets a tick. The shabby jazz cover band get a tick and the service, well. So often service is the great leveller between locations, and not just high end ones. I have recently sworn off ever visiting the best Chinese buffet in my home town due to the excessive levels of vileness of their staff, and will also avoid a certain Smithsfield venue in the future after suffering some pretty naff service on my last two outings there. Good food is one thing, poor treatment outweighs it but great staff make for a brilliant experience and the service at La Chapelle made for a really unrivalled afternoon. My list of positive adjectives runs dry for those guys. Immaculately turned out and unobtrusively attentive but happy to join in with a sigh and a chat when the old boy had to introduce the other boy, the tart making, Pomme d’Or running up boy (I’ve won stuff too you know, competition in a Brownie Guides Cornish Pasty contest is pretty fierce I can tell you). It could have been sycophantic and sickly, and if it isn’t genuine then it is acting of the highest regard from the entire team because they really made the afternoon special, and comfortable. I’m not naive enough to think they work for the warm fuzzy feeling of being good people alone, but plenty of hospitality staff aren’t that hospitable these days and at La Chapelle, their service really is something of an art form, making it stand out as a warm and welcoming experience so much less intimidating or icy than some of it’s Michelin peers. Mission accomplished, Chris & Jeff. Mission accomplished.
At the other end of the check list, it isn’t cheap, but you didn’t really expect it to be and there are set menus and whatnot for the thrifty minded. However my over riding conclusion from this outing is to tell you to damn the expense and go for it, because it’s a massive and worthy treat. You could even pick up a signed book at bargain rates as something to help keep you conscious all the way home on the train (thanks Dad for that!). Hardcore types could even treat themselves to a cheeky one for the road in Cafe a Vin just next door, but just the one. Especially if you have a busy Monday at work on the horizon. Yeah, that hurt.