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Galvin, 66 Baker Street, London W1

The Galvin brothers are packing them in!

Galvin Menu September 2005

Pumpkin & girolles soup 4.95
Terrine pressé of pork & foie gras 6.00
Dorset crab Lasagne, velouté of girolles 9.75
Pithivier of wood pigeon, glazed ches
nuts 7.50
Charcuterie maison 7.50
Salad of Roquefort, pear & walnut 6.50
Oysters – fines de Claire, half dozen 10.50
Oak smoked salmon 9.75
Grilled cod, parsley & coco beans 14.00
Fillet of sea bass, marmalade of fennel & white onions 12.50
Risotto of courgette & saffron 12.50
Parmentier of oxtail & black pudding 9.75
Grilled calves liver, broad beans & thyme 11.50
Confit of duck, sauce Rouennaise 11.50
Poulet de Landes rôti, forestière 13.95
Daube of venison, celeriac purée 15.25
Victoria plum tart 5.50
Iced banana parfait 6.00
Chocolate fondant 5.50
Rice pudding, roast figs & Banyuls 5.00
Savarin of red berries 6.00
St. Emilion au chocolat 5.00
Cheese from the board 6.50
Menu Prix Fixe (sample)
(Three courses - £15.50 lunch or 17.50 dinner)

Feuilleté of poached egg
Jerusalem artichoke soup, hazelnut brioche
Roast seabream, sauce marinière
Grilled calves liver, broad beans & thyme
Pink grapefruit granité
Assiette de fromage
Chris and Jeff Galvin have recently opened their eponymous restaurant - Galvin. The brothers' combined cooking experience spans nearly 50 years, with Chris most recently executive chef at The Wolseley since its opening in 2003, and prior to that at Orrery (one Michelin star), since its launch in 1997, also The Lanesborough, L’Escargot, Ménage à Trois and The Ritz. Jeff worked for six years at L’Escargot in Soho (one Michelin star), and was previously at Chez Nico at 90 Park Lane, The Greenhouse and The Oak Room with Marco Pierre White. Although their culinary backgrounds have a distinct Michelin pedigree, they are pitching Galvin as a ‘bistrot de luxe’, where they aim to showcase fine, but affordable French food in an informal ambience. The seven-day-a-week operation also means that there will always be a Galvin in the kitchen. 

I liked the purposeful, unfussy interior with its dark panelling, leather banquettes, globe lights and suitable black and white photographs of culinary items, taken by Sarah Galvin. When I arrived before 7.30pm, I was surprised to find so many occupied tables at such an early hour. Perhaps because of the bargain £15.50 prix fixe lunch menu which is also offered between 6pm and 7pm in the evening. 

I was warmly greeted by the Restaurant Manager, Jean-Luc Giquel, who has evidently succeeded in recruiting mostly French staff. There was  no shortage of servers, so the rather long wait for our starters was down to the kitchen, who, I imagine, must be rather overwhelmed by such rapid early success. The dining room filled up quickly, but after our initial hiccup, the meal progressed smoothly and the service was good. The menu is brief and to the point, with items that are succinctly worded,  rather than giving virtually the whole recipe.

The two starters we chose were top class. A pithivier of wood pigeon was expertly constructed (somebody's obviously a most accomplished pastry chef), and the filling was perfectly judged so that the meat was tender and juicy. I had the lasagne of Dorset crab, a carefully layered cylinder surrounded by a crab flavoured sabayon whose taste was so delicious that I hung on each mouthful.

My friend and I both like robust dishes, so we had to fight over who was to have the parmentier of oxtail and black pudding.  Parmentier means that potatoes must be present, and the base of this dish was mash. The oxtail and the black pudding had been blitzed together, and whilst the flavour was actually rather good, we found the texture of mush on mash  too reminiscent of the nursery. The free range Poulet de Landes Forestiere showed just how good chicken can be when it is both reared and then cooked with care, with lots of tasty wild mushrooms, those properly seasonal forest fruits.

The wine list is very good and sensibly priced, starting with some nice vin de pays d'Oc at £13.75 a bottle, which we tried by the glass, before moving on to a crisp Chilean sauvignon and some really tasty claret from Chateau Penin. I noticed a bottle of Pichon Lalande on its way to another table, and discovered that there was a reserve wine list. We played at "guess the price" and were surprised that we were over bidding - I thought Chateau Talbot 1990 for £125 in a restaurant was a pretty fair whack. The Pichon had sold for £365, but it was a rarity from the famed 1982 vintage. We wondered if it was the last bottle!

On to puddings - an admirable chocolate fondant with a very molten interior pleased my friend enormously.  Having praised the pastry work earlier, I thought I'd put the pear tart to the test, and was delighted with my choice. The sweet pastry was crunchy and caramelised and the pain epice ice cream set it off to perfection.

I think this is a restaurant that could well become a favourite for Londoners (and visitors) that want to experience good French style cuisine without breaking the bank. Home sick Frenchmen could well find solace here too!

Starters:      £4.95 - £10.50 (Fines Claire oysters)
Mains:         £12 - £16.50 (no supplements or side dishes)
Puddings    £5 - £6.50 (cheese)

Galvin 66 Baker Street, London W1U 7DH
Reservations: 020-7935 4007

Clifford Mould September 2005

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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