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Review: Galvin at Windows Joins The Michelin Club

BY Boon Koh
Published 25 January 2010

Every gourmet food lover dreams at night of stumbling across a new and upcoming restaurant on his or her search, the restaurant that will be the next to receive the praises of the mainstream critics and reach fine dining stardom. The thing is that once a restaurant becomes famous, you have to make reservations three months in advance for a simple Saturday night dinner, and all the prices mysteriously seem to double.

While an upcoming restaurant is still in its anonymous phase, you get the rare to find combination of a chef that gives 110% to produce good food, staff eager to please, and prices that are so reasonable that you could dine there every week. However, for every one restaurant that makes it big, there are hundreds that disappear into mediocre obscurity. So when the new UK Michelin guide for 2010 was “leaked” a full week earlier than it was supposed to, I heard the news through the grapevine, and more importantly, which restaurants were going to be awarded their first Michelin star, plucking them out of obscurity and into the spotlight. It was then that I did a quick search online for deals by any of the newly promoted restaurants, and couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted one by the Galvin at Windows restaurant at the London Hilton Park Lane. Galvin’s head chef, Andre Garrett, finally has achieved one of his lifetime goals of getting a Michelin star, which he came tantalisingly close to in 2007 and 2008. If the TopTable deal is still on, I suggest you click till your mouse breaks, because you can bet your house that it would be taken off once the restaurant cannot cope with the celebrity demand!

Galvin at Windows is one of the most unique restaurants in London in that it offers that rare to find quality of a window table on the 28th floor of what must be one of the tallest buildings in the Mayfair area. Even though we were booked through a bargain TopTable deal, we were given a prime window table overlooking Hyde Park, the size of which I had never before comprehended until now.

Service was extremely efficient, and the waiters have some creativity in them too. Our deal included a glass of champagne each, but seeing how it was a Sunday noon, neither one of us was prepared to be drinking so early. The waiter promptly said he would bring us something special; he was true to his word, and out came two orange and lemon fizzy mocktails that delighted the senses.

The 3-course set menu for £25 promotional offer was based on their Menu du Jour, but we were slightly disappointed with the selection as there was really only one good option worth having for both the starter and main course, and my partner and I didn’t really fancy ordering the same dishes. In the end we both went for the slow cooked duck eggs, sautéed mushrooms & wild mushroom velouté for our starter. It came out different to what I imagined, with a poached duck egg draped over a crispy olive oil soaked bread and a frothy veloute surround it, with bits of mushrooms scattered. Taste-wise it was extremely flavoursome, with the mushroom flavours really coming out. Although I am personally a fan of egg, I thought that the poached duck egg was somewhat ordinary and unimaginative, not really adding to the dish apart from some colour.

For the main course, I purposely chose the boring sounding “pot au feu” of corn fed chicken, while my partner had my first choice of roasted seabream, crab & spring onion pomme écrasée, brown shrimps & chive beurre blanc”. No review is complete with food porn (pictures of dishes), so here we go:

What I thought would be a boring choice ended up turning out to be better than the more exciting sea-bream, which had a lot of ingredients but looked and tasted like it could have been made in any gastropub in London. My chicken, however, was an interesting mix of a roasted chicken drumstick, with two chunks of deboned chicken thigh meat with stuffing. Head chef Andre Garrett, winner of the Roux Scholarship, definitely demonstrates a very grounded approach to delivering good simple dishes, and his choice of using chicken thigh meat is inspired, as it is so much more succulent and tender than breast meat, which should really be banned from being used in any restaurant in the country.

For dessert, I had the hot chocolate fondant, salted caramel, praline ice cream & hazelnut, which was a bit misleading as the hazelnut was inside the ice cream and not separate, as any sane person would interpret from the description! My partner had mascarpone cheesecake, blood orange jelly, which was a rather safe dessert creation. My fondant was absolutely delicious, as was the praline ice cream, and the salted caramel was an adventurous addition.

Still, at the end of the meal, it felt like the whole experience was a bit of a disappointment, with the menu consisting over very safe and unadventurous choices that never really did get the heart racing nor the taste buds crying out for more. There was nothing wrong with the food, and although it was executed perfectly it would have been nice to see more daring creations.

To finish the meal, we received the customary dessert chocolates, but also a surprising jar of colourful marshmallows, proving that Galvin at Windows might not be so straight and uptight as I had come to conclude. If only the rest of the meal was as surprising. Still, its one of the best places to bring visitors to London or a date, as although the food might be quite forgettable, the amazing views stretching out to the horizon from the 28th floor is definitely more memorable.

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars
Cuisine: French fine dining cuisine, with one Michelin Star
Price Range: £25 per person for a 3 course set menu lunch, and a complimentary glass of champagne

Address: Galvin at Windows Restaurant, 28th Floor, London Hilton Park Lane Hotel, 22 Park Lane, London W1K 1BE (location map)
Nearest Tube Stations: Hyde Park Corner Tube Station (5 minutes walk), Green Park Tube Station (7 minutes walk)
Tel for Booking: +44 020 7208 4021
Booking Email Address: reservations@galvinatwindows.com
Website: http://www.galvinatwindows.com