Sunday, May 13, 2012

Galvin at Windows

The Galvin Brothers Chris and Jeff, after years of solid hard work, set up Galvin Bistrot de Luxe on Baker Street in 2005. This restaurant was soon a darling of the critics and food lovers. It remains one of our favourite restaurants in London. Good solid French food with a few Arabic influences. Riding on that success they launched Galvin La Chapelle which has a Michelin star. 5 years ago they were invited by the Hilton on Park Lane to run their rooftop restaurant called Windows and Galvin at Windows was born. This too earned a Michelin star. We had eaten several times at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe and Galvin La Chapelle but never at Galvin at Windows. So a reservation was made from Mumbai before we left. We were looking forward to the meal.

It was a pleasant walk to the Hilton on Park Lane with the majestic Hyde Park on the right. The restaurant is on the 28th floor of the Hilton with stunning views of London. The Hilton, though located on Park Lane is showing its age. We caught the elevator to the 28th floor to be met, not by a charming restaurant hostess but a rather brusque lady in charge of the cloakroom [A cloakroom is a room where coats and other articles may be left temporarily, as in a theatre or school and not a toilet as we understand in India] with whom HRH the Queen of Kutch deposited her coat. Then we walked to the restaurant and were soon seated. Immediately there were bad vibes. I felt them and so did HRH the Queen of Kutch, so much so that she remarked that this was not a restaurant she would want to return to.

The Hilton Park Lane
View from the top

Why the bad vibes? It’s difficult to identify the reason. My personal hypothesis is that being a large American hotel, a lot of the diners were guests who were, in my opinion there simply because they are lazy. Let me expand. London is one of the food capitals of the world with several top restaurants and top chefs. It requires quite a lot of effort to make a reservation, get dressed, get into a taxi, go eat and return. It’s much simpler to simply walk up to the restaurant in your own hotel. We have been thru this ourselves. How often do we go to Delhi or Bangalore on business and end up eating a crappy meal in the hotel you are staying in instead of going to a more highly recommended restaurant? The people around were just not there for the food. The staff was casual and service was lax. Menus not cleared, orders not taken and plates sitting for an excruciating time. As I said I cannot pinpoint a reason but the vibes were definitely not good.

Anyway, we were handed menus and there were two choices available, a shorter 3 course meal or a 8 course tasting menu. We chose the 3 course and a glass of Champagne each. The Champagne was not cold, sad; it seemed that with undemanding punters the restaurant had slipped its standards.

First up we were given an Amuse Buoche which was an Aubergine Puree topped with some Pomegranate Jewels and finished with a Lemon Foam. This was served with a Parmesan and Pepper Sable. Unremarkable, dull coloured and dull tasting. The Sable was soggy, it must have been sitting in the kitchen. Have a look at the photo. Do you feel like eating it?

Amuse Bouche

The disgusting Sable

Next we got our first course. HRH the Queen of Kutch had ordered Sautéed Frogs Legs, Slow Cooked Egg and Wild Garlic Veloute. Wild Garlic is in season now in the UK and will be gone in the next 3 weeks. It’s really quite delicious with a mild garlic taste and a vibrant green colour. I believe that this dish was an adaptation of Bernard Loiseau’s creation of Frogs Legs with Garlic Puree and Parsley Jus. Bernard Loiseau was a brilliant chef who suffered from severe bipolar disorder. He had 3 Michelin stars but he feared that he was going to lose his 3 stars. Unable to face the trauma of the potential loss, he shot himself in 2003 just before Michelin released their rating. The irony was that he did not lose his star, but unfortunately he was dead. The film Ratatouille was loosely based on his life. Coming back to our meal,   HRH the Queen of Kutch said her dish was good, but it was rather skimpy  with just three miniscule Frogs Legs. This seemed like the fancy restaurants we have in Mumbai, always short changing you.  

Frogs Legs with Slow Cooked Egg and Wild Garlic Veloute. Just 3 legs

Bernard Loiseau with his creation. 12 frogs legs.

I had ordered the Seared Foie Gras, Date Puree, Ras El Hanout Pumpkin Seeds, Rhubarb and Banyuls. This was really nice. Have a look at the photo; it is really a beautiful looking dish. Would you not want to eat it? Would not every child not want to eat it, with all those beautiful colours?

Seared Foie Gras, Date Puree, Ras El Hanout Pumpkin Seeds, Rhubarb and Banyuls 

For our main course HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered a Tournedos of Hake, Clams, White Asparagus, Gnocchi, Parsley and Salted Seaweed. This was delicious as pronounced by HRH the Queen of Kutch. It did look nice too! I had a bite; it was really tasty and seasoned so perfectly.

Tournedos of Hake, Clams, White Asparagus, Gnocchi, Parsley and Salted Seaweed 

I had ordered Cotswold White Chicken, Mushroom Puree, Heritage Beetroot, Onion Tart and Hazelnut Jus. This too was very good. The Chicken Breast was perfectly cooked and had therefore not gone dry. I think it may have been first cooked in a water bath, wrapped in cling film and then quickly coloured on a hot pan. Once again a good dish well presented, summery in its colours with the Beetroot. Once again so attractive that I could have fed it to a child. I do not mean this in a derogatory way but making food look attractive is not something we Indians know how to do.

Cotswold White Chicken, Mushroom Puree, Heritage Beetroot, Onion Tart and Hazelnut Jus 

Onion Tart

Spinach as a side order

Dessert was a variation of Floating Islands for HRH the Queen of Kutch. It was a Chocolate Soup with some Meringues in the soup. The Soup was horrible but the Meringues were nice. I had a Peanut Butter and Chocolate concoction whose name I cannot remember. It had Caramelised Popcorn on top. Looked good tasted better.

Chocolate Soup & Floating Islands
The Peanut Butter & Chocolate creation

All in all, good food but average restaurant. I do not recommend you go here. For the same money you should eat at either Galvin Bistrot de Luxe or Galvin La Chapelle. The food is better and the service is much much better.

We did really have very high hopes and expectations. In fact the Galvin Brothers have just published their cookbook which I bought. It is one book where I have eaten a lot of the food contained in the book. We really do like their food and restaurants but Windows is not for us.

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