I am going to start by saying I love this restaurant. It is probably the best meal I have had out so far this year and therefore I make no apologies for the ensuing gushing and the occasional hyperbole. This restaurant was voted number one by the Tatler readership no less. Proving its credentials even more impressively than that is the Michelin star that it was awarded a year after it opened in 2011.
The restaurant that has set a high benchmark for all of my future meals out is Galvin La Chapelle located between Liverpool Street and Spitalfields Market.
It is the third restaurant by acclaimed chef brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin, and as the name eludes for the French-speaking among us (not to be confused with the word for hat as we may have been guilty of prior to entering) is housed in an old Chapel. And what a Chapel it is. As you leave the commercial high-rises and bustle of Liverpool Street behind and enter the restaurant, you are immediately transported to a beautiful, light-filled, cavernous space. It is a civilised oasis in the City and is very impressive. There is the awe-inspiring vaulted ceiling, exposed brickwork and beautiful complexity of the timber roof trusses high overhead. This combined with the luxuriously heavy drapes, the ridiculously comfortable leather chairs, formal white table-cloths, circular feature lights (reminiscent of medieval candle-chandeliers) and the slick glass-balustrade to the mezzanine creates a visual feast. Due to the impressive Architecture, the restaurant feels opulent and smart without having to try too hard in terms of interior design. Simplicity, elegance and refinement are the order of the day and just like the food on the menu, it feels very French!
It is hard to believe that in a Michelin-starred restaurant in such a fantastic setting there would be a set lunch menu priced at £29 for three courses. On the day we went, a glass of Champagne was also included in the price. It really was fantastic value.
Everything sounded so delicious on the menu and we enjoyed the good bread selection whilst we decided. I eventually went for the velouté of Wye Valley asparagus with truffle cream to start. It was small and elegantly presented and was really, very good. Fresh and clean whilst full of flavour. The others on our table chose the classic melon and Parma ham and the fillet of grilled mackerel with crème fraîche & beetroot which all looked lovely and disappeared reassuringly quickly.
For main, the pavé of cod on puy lentils with carrot and cumin purée with the most amazing, small, crunchy, garlicky croutons was the popular choice on our table. It was justified. The skin was so crisp and delicious and the cod was cooked perfectly so it was flaky. The lentils and puree were very tasty and the croutons balanced it all out with texture and crunch.
Feeling satisfied but not completely stuffed, due to the conservatively-sized portions, dessert for once, completed the meal perfectly instead of providing the over-indulgent, gluttonous feeling that it normally does. I had cheese – Sainte-Maure de Touraine with delicate crispy toast, grapes and walnuts. It was the best way to finish the meal for a cheese lover.
The sticky caramel and sharp apple of the tarte tatin with crème fraiche that my other half enjoyed did induce a short period of food-envy but that was quickly forgotten when the selection of petit fours arrived with our coffee. It is touches like these that make a meal feel special and the dark liqueur cherry chocolates were particularly good.
The food, in our opinion was near faultless and the service was extremely good without being invasive. The restaurant, although formal in appearance had a very laid-back atmosphere, maybe something to do with the fact that it was surprisingly fairly empty. We sat in La Chapelle chatting away after we had finished our meal for about an hour and a half (the chairs are, as mentioned, ridiculously comfortable). We were not hassled but occasionally checked on by the friendly staff. In total our leisurely lunch lasted for about 4 hours. As we were about to leave, a waiter very kindly gave us a tour of the bar next door to the dining room and told us about the BBQs that are held there in the summer. We made a mental note to return for that one weekend and left feeling suitably relaxed and happy after a great meal in a wonderful place.