Owned by the Galvin brothers, Galvin La Chapelle near Spitalfields Market has held its Michelin star for over two years. The brothers also own one starred Galvin at Windows on the 28th floor of the London Hilton hotel on Park Lane, so the pair have plenty of experience in classical French fine dining.
We arrived at the restaurant and were taken aback by its enormity; the ceiling was ever so high. It had an old church feel to it with plenty of charm and character. Disappointingly however, at ground level, the place felt cluttered and crowded. Tables were packed very closely together and I was seated next to a Christmas tree that was poking in my neck. The tablecloths were fraying in places and my napkin had a stain on it; on closer inspection the restaurant looked tired and in need of a spruce up.
Some white or brown bread was offered alongside a big chunk of salty butter. Light, spongey and with a slightly chewy crust; it was delicious.
To start I opted for the breast of red leg partridge, macerated kumquats, redcurrant salad and truffle dressing (£14.50). The partridge, I believe, had been cooked in a water bath meaning it was cooked perfectly but seriously lacking in flavour. The skin had at least been crisped up. There was also a few spots of blood on the underside which was awfully off putting. The salad was both far too sweet and far too tangy which completely overpowered the dull partridge.
My gentleman companion went for the Chapelle signature starter; lasagne of Dorset crab, veloute of yellow chanterelles and pea shoots (£15.50). It looked a thing of pure beauty – the towering lasagne was surrounded by the most frothy and bubbly sauce I’ve ever seen. The crab filling between the thin sheets of pasta was a bit rubbery and bouncy but the overall flavour was superb.
It was only half way through eating the chateaubriand of Cumbrian beef (£33.50) that I realised I hadn’t actually ordered it. A worried looking waiter then appeared and said there had been a mix up – how embarrassing that I had forgotten what I’d ordered! Either way, the beef was delicious; again it had been cooked in the water bath making it not as flavoursome as it could have been but the accompanying truffle mashed potato and caramelised shallots provided plenty of flavour.
I was then presented with the actual dish I ordered; breast of Yorkshire pheasant, pomme fondant, cranberries and Alsace bacon (£26.50). Now, I’m a pig but eating two main courses was a real push for me – but I managed it somehow! The pheasant was cooked perfectly but again lacked flavour and again had spots of blood on the underside. It looked vibrant and colourful but the overall flavour was that of the sharp cranberries which overpowered everything.
My gentleman companion’s roast loin and faggot of Denham Estate venison (£32.50) was much better. The red cabbage was subtly sweet and the thick meaty sauce drizzled over everything was seriously flavourful. My gentleman companion particularly enjoyed the spiced faggot but the slices of venison featured that recurring problem; lack of flavour.
For dessert we decided to share the Valrhona chocolate ganache, honeycomb and coconut sorbet (£11.50). The ganache was well made and rich enough for the both of us to share, leaving us feeling comfortably full. The coconut sorbet was particularly good but the one small piece of honeycomb seemed a bit measly.
I had expected far more from our lunch at Galvin La Chapelle; instead we left wondering how it achieved a Michelin star. Service was efficient but lacked charm and felt clumsy at times; the chair opposite us was banged into on numerous occasions. I got the impression that once upon a time Galvin La Chapelle was wonderful – but now that doesn’t seem to be the case.