- Dinner: Menu Dégustation at £75, £110 or £130 (depending on wines & courses selected); Menu Prestige at £58 for 3 courses; or À La Carte Menu at £33 for 3 courses
- Lunch: 2 courses at £19.50; 3 courses at £25; or 3 courses + ½ bottle of wine, water & coffee at £39.50 (through toptable) + Bar Lunch Express dishes for £4-12
It was the dead of winter, the afternoons were drawing yet shorter, and there I was, still a veritable Galvin virgin. I thought to myself, I must be one of the only self-appointed ‘foodies’ in London who has not yet frequented one of the (then) two Galvin Brothers establishments in the London fog (they have since added the much-lauded and doted over Galvin La Chapelle and offshoot Cafe de Luxe in the City). So, when I discovered after a bit of research that you could get a 3-course lunch at their highest-flying venue for a mere £25/person – even on a Sunday – I decided I that I would finally lose my Galvinity and treat Mrs. LF to what I hoped would be a nice lunch with stunning views.
Perched atop the London Hilton hotel, with a commanding view of a good deal of London, lays Galvin at Windows. I had heard many good things from various friends and food bloggers, so the bar had been set pretty, erm, ‘high’. Upon taking the lift up to the top floor and soaking in the restaurant (and peeping into the nice and spacious bar), first impressions were certainly good. This place didn’t exude much of the cookie-cutter, drab ho-humness that is the global Hilton brand, but actually seemed to radiate with its own design, ambience and energy. The greeting was smooth and the waiters were friendly and professional.
Although we didn’t get a table right by the window, as I had requested through my toptable booking, we were given a lovely table on the lower floor that looked Northwest up Park Lane and beyond. There is also a raised rectangular dining area that stands about 4 or 5 feet above the ground-level tables. It was not that busy, probably due to the fact that our reservation was for 2pm.
These bros can cook
As we soaked in the view, our tummies were growing hungrier by the minute, so we quickly made up our minds, although all the 3 options for each of the courses did sound very appetizing.
With our starters and main courses selected, we were provided with two types of bread and a lovely little beehive of butter, all of which were fine but not stellar. 6/10.
As I was mainly having veggies and fish, I wanted to go for a white wine (Mrs. LF was not drinking as per usual since ‘the bump’ had appeared :)). I was looking at the wines by the glass, but the sommelier persuaded me that their other deal (3 courses, half a bottle of wine, water & coffee at £39.50) would probably be more economical and enjoyable, and that they had some very nice wines on the accompanying half-bottle selection. Like The Dude I am, I abided, and chose the 2008 Mâcon Villages Caves de L’aurore (Burgundy), which served its purpose very nicely throughout the first two courses. It had a nice golden color, a subtle nose of tropical fruit and a nicely integrated touch of oak. I’ve seen this on other restaurant lists for about £15 per half-bottle, so it was a decent deal given that the water and coffee were basically thrown in for free.
Simply put, my starter of slow cooked hens’ egg was as beautiful to look at as it was to taste. Everything here worked well together. When split, the egg yolk that oozed out was of a good thickness and orangey-golden hue. The sea of mustard beurre blanc was a perfect surface for the potatoes and haddock to float upon. The sauce itself was delicious – in fact, I spooned up a good deal of it on its own – and the potatoes were just warm, still firm and exhibited a note of sweetness. The taste of the smoked fish was not overpowering as not too much had been added, and as it all mingled together joyfully in my mouth I had the feeling that this was going to be a good meal. It was certainly an excellent beginning. 8/10.
I thought that Mrs. LF’s was also presented in a beautiful and simple manner. Here’s what she thought: “The braised beef short rib inside the ravioli was moist and tender and the ravioli was not too filled (compared to the one I had in the York & Albany earlier in the year). The foam, or velouté, was exquisite: it kind of looked like a cream velouté and almost tasted like so, but was in fact horseradish. This was delicious and very innovative as it was a fusion of Italian and British cuisine.” 8/10.
Okay, here was the deal-sealer. These boys can cook. Well, it is actually Head Chef André Garret presiding at Windows, but I am sure you get what I mean. This was a pretty flawless bit of cooking. Like my starter, it may not have been the most inventive or complex dish in the world, but it is the kind of thing I like to eat, and could do so quite often. The fish had been cooked to textbook perfection, still moist and soft yet adequately firm with a crispy skin. But, in a way, the real star here was the shellfish sauce, which was truly delectable. Its saltiness and sea flavors played off brilliantly against the slightly sweet and mild flavor of the Gilthead (‘Royal’) Bream. The mushrooms also worked well and the creaminess of the sauce admirably tied the whole dish together. Another 8/10 for me.
It had become quite bright in the airy dining room, and it turned out that none of the pictures of Mrs. LF’s main course really did it justice. It was a nice looking…risotto. Yes, risotto, an Italian dish if I ever saw one. And I was a little puzzled at what this and the earlier ravioli were doing at this very Anglo-French-seeming restaurant. But nonetheless, this is what the good lady ordered, so was it any good?
Mrs. LF recalls that, “The risotto was cooked perfectly, and the smooth taste of the butternut squash worked well, making the risotto creamy and unctuous – as it should be – although I would have liked some kind of kick coming from one of the remaining ingredients, in order to open my appetite and make me want to go back to the dish after each bite. The taste of the sage didn’t do it for me, but maybe that’s because I am sensitive to strong aroma at the moment (being pregnant). I didn’t taste the mozzarella that was listed on the menu description, but noticed and tasted some shaved parmesan in its place.” 6.5/10.
In the end, Mrs. LF decided to opt-out of dessert (so her 2-course lunch cost £19.50), and I eventually and reluctantly succeeded to sharing my dessert with her. I really wished we had both got our own portion of this though. After waiting for a long time, one of the waiters informed us that the kitchen had messed up the fondant and was making a new one from scratch – this was annoying but their honesty was appreciated. When it did arrive, it was pretty much the perfect chocolate fondant. A moist dark chocolate cake encased the hot chocolate which gently leached out from its shell upon being broken by my fork. The combination of salty caramel, praline and warm chocolate was divine and I truly enjoyed devouring this little piece of edible beauty. 9/10.
After all of the aforementioned lusciousness, I decided I definitely needed a coffee, and then realized that it was conveniently included in my upgraded lunch package. It was a high quality black filter coffee, and the petit fours consisted of two chocolates and two truffles from L’Artisan du Chocolat, which was a nice treat. We have had the pleasure of exploring their range thanks to my parent’s holiday gifts over the past two years, and these didn’t disappoint. I also noted the fact that they provided two of each, so that Mrs. LF could have one even though she hadn’t ordered tea or coffee.
After relaxing for a bit more, we asked for the bill, and were pleasantly surprised when a glass jar of big, fluffy pink and yellow marshmallows were offered to us as well. They were really good and left us with a well-deserved sweet memory of our meal.
One down, three to go
We looped around the dining room on our way out and had a look at the fun fair down below, and really were on Cloud 9 at this point.
It had been a smooth, leisurely, pleasant and delicious lunch. Service throughout had been attentive, thoughtful, friendly and efficient. The views and the setting were fairly unique for London and the prices were reasonable within this context. I don’t think I need to say it again, but the food was of a very high calibre: each dish was technically well-cooked and had the added bonus of delicious, tried and tested flavor combinations that we certainly both enjoyed. I can understand why they have just been elevated to 1 Michelin star status in the 2010 UK guide (they didn’t yet hold the star when we dined there).
I am now eager to try their less formal Marylebone Bistrot de Luxe and am meant to be hitting Galvin La Chapelle with some other food bloggers in about a month’s time. I just hope that Jeff and Chris Galvin heed the warning signs of other British chefs who have grown too fast and too furiously in recent years and are now paying the price. In Windows, they definitely seem to have found a winning combination. I hope their other restaurants do the same and that they keep their enterprise manageable and consistently infused with their obvious skill, know-how and cooking ability.
Wine: a nice selection of half bottles for the 3-course lunch deal; I didn’t check out the larger list in too much detail
For more about my rating scale, click here.
*Note: I have dined at Galvin at Windows once, and it was for Sunday lunch.*