Galvin at Windows
Peter Ranscombe visits Galvin at Windows, a restaurant with a Michelin star and an unrivalled view over the London skyline.
There aren’t many restaurants in which diners are handed two postcards when they sit down, each showing the view from the windows of the eatery. Then again, there aren’t many restaurants like Galvin at Windows, the Michelin-starred establishment perched on the 28th floor of the London Hilton on Park Lane hotel.
Nor can many rival its view. The British capital lays spread out before patrons in all 360-degrees of its splendour, from Hyde Park to the Post Office Tower.
Opened in 2006 by chef Chris Galvin, the restaurant gained its first Michelin star in 2010. Chris and his younger brother, Jeff, are also behind the Galvin Brasserie de Luxe and The Pompadour by Galvin outlets at the Walforf Astoria Edinburgh – better known to one and all as “The Caley”.
Dinner began with an amuse-bouche of tuna tartare that delivered a citrusy blast, accompanied by cucumber and dill powder. It was a great indication of the high quality that was to follow.
A starter of soy-marinated Iberico pluma – a cut between the neck and shoulder – was served warm with pickled Japanese cucumber that added freshness and crunch and a tomato and chilli paste. It paired delightfully with a glass of the 2015 Leyda Reserve Pinot Noir from Chile, with its wood smoke and red cherry aromas leading into concentrated strawberry and raspberry fruit on the palate, and enough acidity to match the pork.
The wine was also able to handle the main course, with a rump of soft Cornish lamb that tasted so good it could almost have been Scotch lamb, served with braised fennel and a shepherd’s pie, delivered to the table in its own tiny copper saucepan. The lamb was good but the pie stole the show with its rich sauce and creamy mash.
I’m a sucker for an apple tatin, and Galvin served its with caramel sauce and rosemary ice cream, making it even more tempting. Before the dessert though, they snuck in a cheeky wee cheese course, featuring four cheeses from both sides of the Channel, including a runny Brie and a Munster from Alsace, with its rind soaked in brandy.
The surprises kept coming, with chocolate petit fours – some filled with passionfruit fondant and some filled with a soft almost liquid-like truffle – followed by stick-to-your-teeth French favourite canelé, made without the rum but with plenty of caramel. It’s worth keeping an eye peeled for the digestif drinks trolley too, packed full of cognac, armagnac and Scotch, featuring Johnnie Walker Blue Label and three Dalmore single malts.
It’s easy to see why Galvin won its Michelin star – and it’s nothing to do with the guidebook’s assessor having to “step off the beaten track” by taking a 28-floor journey in a lift – yet it’s the atmosphere in the restaurant that really set it apart for me. All pretention has been removed – members of the waiting staff still wear ties but welcome and serve their guests so they feel they’re at a party, not a stuffy dining room.
While the outside of the Hilton hotel’s 1960s Soviet-esque concrete styling won’t appeal to all, there’s no arguing with the quality of its suites. Mine on the 22nd floor almost matched Galvin view-for-view, with different vistas from the sitting room and bedroom, with its giant bed. There are big LG televisions in each of the rooms although, with views like these, no-one’s likely to be buying movies from the pay-per-view service.
The prestige menu at Galvin at Windows starts at £79 per person for three courses, find out more at www.galvinatwindows.com, while a junior suite in the London Hilton on Park Lane starts at £569 per night – find out more at www.hilton.com