Saturday, September 17, 2011

Galvin Bistrot

As we walk out of Galvin Bistrot on our last evening in London, several silly clichés buzz through my brain: Leave the best for last, tried and tested, security blanket, familiarity breeds comfort and most of all, there is no substitute for victory!

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, the flagship restaurant of the Galvin brothers Chris and Jeff, started in 2005 has been a touchstone of our London visits for the last 7 years.  It is the only restaurant in London where we are on the mailing list and we have rejoiced in the steady expansion and increasing accolades enjoyed by the Galvin brothers which now has Galvin Bistrot, Galvin La Chapelle and Galvin Windows. In fact, as early as 2006 I had foreseen a Michelin star for Galvin and though the Galvin Bistrot has yet to get one, the newly opened Galvin la Chapelle achieved this feather within one short year of its existence.

We visited Galvin Bistrot after almost a year and as always were charmed off our feet. The advertising term ‘customer delight’ is something these people live and breathe.

We had a table for 7pm for 2 persons, but reached the restaurant at 6.45 as a party of 3 along with our lovely London friend, philosopher and guide in tow. No problems at all. We could have a drink in the bar and they would shift the reservation to a slightly later time. No frowns, no disapproval. Just charm and friendliness although the restaurant was more than half full and there was a steady stream of people pouring in. The bar was calm, clubby and intimate and 1 drink flowed easily into 2 as we chatted and caught up in the dim calm. Although it was almost 7.45 by the time we finally got to our table, we were never reminded of our reservation or hurried through our drinks. Fabulously accommodating, in my opinion.

The restaurant was absolutely buzzing. By 8.30 there was a queue of people waiting for a table. But despite this we were never hurried and more importantly, the service never missed a beat. Everything happened at its appointed time with precision and friendly efficiency.

For starters we had a Ham Hock & Foie Gras Terrine, Red Onion Marmalade and a Lasagne Of Dorset Crab, Beurre Nantais. Both dishes were honest cooking, great quality ingredients and absolutely bursting with flavour. You know you have a good dish when conversation drops and the silences are punctuated with ‘you must try this’. The lasagne of crab was rich and generous and had a taste that lingered long after the last bite.

Mains were Braised Pork Cheeks, Ox Tongue, Ham And Pickled Mushrooms with Madeira Jus and a Confit Duck Leg, Black Pudding, Glazed Figs and Lyonnaise salad.  Both dishes displayed a very high level of cooking and were perfect example of honest French bistrot food. Robust, well seasoned, generous and totally unctuous. The sauces glistened, the meat fell off the bone, the vegetables had bite and the mashed potatoes were smooth and creamy. Everything was as it should be. No surprises and absolutely no disappointments.

All this was washed down by a fabulous red wine we last had at the Galvin la Chapelle and were happy to order again. Do try and get your hands on it, it is really a happy drinking wine. The wine is called Irancy. It is a fairly recent red wine appellation in the far north-west of the Burgundy region in France. Created in 1999, the appellation is specifically for wines made from Pinot Noir (with a permitted 10 percent addition of Cesar) from the communes of Cravant, Irancy and Vincelottes.

Dessert was a single Valrhona chocolate delice with milk ice cream.  Very dense and chocolaty. The perfect bistrot dessert, according the Cordon Bleu Lawyer.

After all the clichés have buzzed through my brain, I am left with just one question. I don’t know why we do not come to Galvin Bistrot de Luxe more often. It deserves at least one of not two visits during every London visit.  A definite recommend for everyone. Friendly, comforting, outstanding food and great atmosphere. What more could one want from a restaurant??

Ham Hock. Please see the internal garnish of Onion, Carrot and Gherkin and of course Foie Gras 
Lobster Ravioli
Duck Confit with Figs, Salade Landais and Black Pudding

Pork Cheeks

Chocolate Delice

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