Religious diner……Galvins LaChapelle* // London

Freshly awarded 1 star in 2011, the brother Galvins (Jeff & Chris) are not unknown on the market as they’ve been running Windows at the Park Lane Hilton since 5 years already. But far from the lux and chic of the Hilton outdated hotel chain – to be fair I’m not a fan to be fair of Hilton’s hotels, mostly 70’s old designed and tasteless – Galvins’ bros started this very clever new address in a far more “bobo” location, off the thrilling East End, not far from vibrant Brick Lane, close to the city and their financial clientele.

The main dining room

When you arrive, I would describe it as a revelation, almost a pray! Are you getting into a cathedral, a church, maybe just a barn? Very confusing as it was formerly a Victorian School Chapel now re-designed and listed grade II.

Massive, grandiose, superb…those are the words I would use here to describe the feeling. Please have a stand in front of the huge front wall, and then enter where you’ll feel almost like entering to a royal procession. The long bar on the left hand side welcome you and then you start to have an eye to the high and superb wood roof and the chandelier. 30 meters high, it’s an impressive volume, and above the open plan kitchen you can see the massive mezzanine.

Wonderful architecture and very bizarrely, you would expect the place to be very noisy, it’s totally the opposite. I appreciate my first minute in this religious dining room, almost a royal ceremony.

At this point in time, you can feel that the atmosphere is dedicated to food. A glance at one or two plates on other tables can straight give you the feeling that you just landed in a respectable place and that you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the evening.

The Menu Gourmand

I’ve evocated recently the lack of service on most of the place I’ve tested so far in Europe. What a pleasure to arrive at Galvins and get a nice smile, to have someone opening the table for you i.e. take the chair away from the table for you to seat easily. But above all the cheer up from the staff, smiling and talking to you nicely. I think it’s been a while since I had this kind of really nice and professional feeling. From the maitre d’ to the sommelier, all the staff has been really professional. Always the right suggestion at the right time, no need to ask for bread here, it’ll flow naturally, and icing on the cake : clean up of the table between every course as well.

To notice as well, the sommelier was explaining the wines with such conviction and talent, this was a pure moment of pleasure just to listen.

But let’s start with the courses and appreciate the talent of the “chefs” in action.

Lasagne of Dorset crab & “beurre nantais”

Undoubtedly one of the best performance of the evening. Simple and in the meantime so clever. Made almost like a French style quenelle, but flat, then lightly dropped into a Lasagne style cocoon. Dress up with simple cress and cover of a light “beurre nantais”. Strangely the simplest dish of the evening, but at same time the execution was so perfect.

Risotto of Fresh peas and goat’s curd

Another hit there, I’ve to say, somehow I would be able to eat this risotto every morning. The delicacy of the curd mixed with amazingly perfectly cooked peas. Another simple dish but just a perfect cooking. The peas where cooked to perfection and “popping” in your mouth while eating. The curd was giving some extra texture to the whole risotto. A must to taste.


Roast pavé of Salmon, white peach, mussels, cobnut & verjus beurre

Nice mix here and some creativity. Peach and Salmon, sweet and sour. Maybe adventurous but I’ve to say it works. The salmon was very fishy hence was perfectly balancing the sweetness of the peach flavor in the sauce and the slices under the salmon “pavé”. As the juice was a verjus reduction, the sauce texture was almost like a syrup. Very nice combination and well balanced. Otherwise, don’t ask me why, but we didn’t find the mussels!! Instead there was a scallop. Certainly a change of last minute. Not bad!! Another gem was this cucumber pickled and marinated in some almond juice or liquor?! Can’t really tell but it was fantastic.


Tagine of Bresse pigeon, couscous, aubergine purée harissa sauce

Finally the chef signature dish, which I would call a “deconstructed” Morocan Tagine. I have to say, I never had that for a long time. The service as usual was fantastic, as the two waiters waited the last second, that all the tagine been dropped on the table to open all the four lids at the same time (very professional).

And then the perfection…..instantly the flavor of the best tagine I’ve ever had started to fill the air with a wonderful smell. All North Africa’s cuisine was instantly “embalming” the room. Harrisa, the couscous, the pigeon, …..unbelievable.

Then all the components were just divine, from the couscous “galette” under the pigeon, to the pigeon pastilla, and aubergine unbelievably creamy.

Then this pigeon breast itself which am assuming has been cooked slowly on “sous vide” and just slightly roasted at the last minute (assumption). The simple cooked garlic and this amazing lemon pickled with some almond flavor again.

Superb….. I just want to go back again …..



Apple tarte Tatin, crème fraîche (not represented here)

Ok, let’s be honest here, I’m French, so as such « tarte tatin » is part of your language and our french culture as the “baguette” would be. Hence no restaurant of such a high standard should fail on this and a unique dessert, I felt a little bit disappointed. When you chose to take a “tasting menu” it is usually to have the chance of being blown away by the talent and creation. I’m afraid here we’re facing another issue on this menu. You can’t leave this amazing place on a bad impression. And I’m afraid, as well you’ll be sad if you leave the concert of your favorite singer without having your favorite song being performed, I felt the same…….

Don’t get me wrong, the dessert was superbly cooked. But not “twinkle” enough for my taste and for the price. Can do seriously better here.


So overall, what to think about Galvins?

I would stay on a kind of confusion feeling, share between excellence and disappointment. Some dishes were just superbly creative and full of taste. The creation is the key and root to the excellence. Over 8 courses, maybe only half of them are really striking my attention. The other half, I’m afraid is such pointless that it’s unfortunately leaving this feeling of inconsistency.

I think sometime chefs want to impress by the number of dishes on the menu list, and forget to balance with quality. Here maybe 6 courses would have been enough. Skip the terrine, skip the cheese. Replace by something exciting, unknown, or forgotten. And please, the dessert (even if this is not my favorite part in a full dinner) can’t be bad, neither average nor common. This is the grand finale, like in a firework. This needs to be fabulous.

Hopefully, I’ve to say I really enjoyed the raspberry macaroons and the pure chocolate seeds in the silver pot with the coffee. I think it was my real dessert; people were amused to eat for the first time chocolate seeds, uncommon and funny.

To sum up, I would say that Galvins at Lachapelle is still in getting on his strides. Some adjustments needs to be made on the overall food architecture. From a service perspective, for whoever is working for the staff and reading those lines I’ll give a 10. This was just one of those rare moments of professionalism.

FOOD = 7/10
SERVICE = 9/10
NOISE = 8/10
35 Spital Square
City of London E1 6DX
020 7299 0400


Galvin La Chapelle on Urbanspoon


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  1. #1 by Nick J on 25/08/2011 - 10:00

    Great article Vince- if you need a second opinion next time just call 🙂

  2. #2 by jvbahnik on 25/08/2011 - 21:13

    Belles photos, bon article.. et maintenant j’ai envie de cette tagine… à 3 heures de l’après-midi…

  3. #3 by London Chow on 27/11/2011 - 13:19

    Had brilliant meal at Galvin la Chapelle yesteday. Like you said, service is impeccable too. Would gladly recommend anyone there if it’s their only meal in London.

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