Just what do you do and where do you go for a really special food treat? My wife Claudia's answer for our wedding anniversary (not a big round number one!) was to book the Menu Gourmand at Galvin La Chapelle.
I had tried one or two of these before – of the “chef's table” variety – where you eat in the kitchen. I was not that impressed by these as I spent more time watching the staff work than in appreciating the food on my plate. So I thought the concept was flawed.
But the La Chapelle restaurant operated by the starred Galvin brothers was something else! It's not chef's table, simply an expression of what the establishment can come up with.
To start with, the restaurant is built into a former girls' school – it was the assembly hall where the pupils would sing hymns and say prayers. So as a Menu Gourmand diner, you are treated as if you were in a place of worship, which for Galvin fans, it very certainly is.
You get loads of attention although it is never overdone – enough to make you feel special but not so much as to spoil your food experience. There is information but never overload. And because we started dining quite late (nearly two in the afternoon), the restaurant was quiet.
The Menu Gourmand comes in two versions – one with a wine to match each of the seven courses (£129 per person) and one without (£70). We went for the simpler choice – while the wines work with the food, adjusting your palette to both eating and drinking seven times is too much for me. We opted for a bottle of Slovakian white wine - 2013 Furmint, Verus at £37.00 (there's a good selection of under £40 bottles) which went well with the whole meal as this is light on red meat, concentrating on fish, birds, vegetables and cheese.
The dishes vary a little in detail from day to day but have a core set in common. They are, after all, intended to show the Galvin signature dishes.
So we started with Lasagne of lobster – delicious, followed by a chicken terrine with foie gras, ham and leek vinaigrette (equally wonderful). It's hard to do justice to everything in the menu – the only dull spot for us was cheese.
Yes, it was truly delicious but then anyone can do cheese, chutney and walnuts. To be fair, it's hard to know how to improve on this – even if you are famous chefs!
We finished with Apple Tarte Tatin, a staple but so delicious!
And there is a surprise when you pay the bill. Not a bad one! You walk out with a signed copy of the Galvin recipe book. It's great to read (and to look at the photos) but I don't think I am going to try to replicate the food any time soon!
Galvin La Chapelle
35 Spital Square, London, E1 6DY
+44 (0) 20 7299 0400