Restaurant review: Galvin at Windows

It was Ella’s birthday on Friday and we’d booked a table at Galvin at Windows, which sits rather spectacularly on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton, London. I like the Galvin brothers’ restaurants, especially their Galvin La Chapelle. There’s something about the way you feel fussed over while dining, without them being overly fussy. Plus, they have a keen eye for a space. Windows is no different. Tables overlook Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace Gardens – from on high. You can see Crystal Palace in one direction and over to Alexandra Palace in the other. Try and get a seat by a window if you book, as we did, otherwise you may leave wondering what the fuss was about.

When meat eaters tell me about restaurants, they often utter the words, “You’d like it at [insert restaurant name here] because there’s lots of choice for veggies.” Well, let’s get one thing straight, I don’t really care that much about choice – I’m used to not having any: what I want, primarily, is good food. A ropey but fully vegetarian restaurant gives me choice, yet somehow I don’t want to take my wife there for her special birthday meal, do I? So no, as with many fine dining joints, you won’t find much that constitutes choice at Galvin at Windows, but you can take advantage of the vegetarian offering on their set lunch menu, which currently comes in at £45 for three courses, half a bottle of wine and coffee.

We asked about the vegetarian options. On booking they’d said there always was one. The menu seemed to have other ideas though – the most non-meat starter was almost veggie, apart from some snails. No matter, however, as not only could they refine this choice in the kitchen for us, but we could also choose from the vegetarian a la carte options as well.

From the latter list we chose a starter of salad of root vegetables, deep-fried organic egg, truffle dressing, baby leaves and fresh chestnut. The salad was nutty and, yes, fresh, well seasoned and pleasingly textured – from the soft warm yolk to the crunch of the chestnut and yellow beets. Highlight of the meal.

The main was a risotto (Must Try Harder!) of pumpkin and sage, made more Michelin-y by the presence of a slightly foamy sage cream, toasted chopped hazelnuts and a slick of a deep green vegetal jus. It worked – just. Last, for me, came a buttermilk pannacotta with rhubarb. The rhubarb came as a sorbet, a jelly and a confit. Ella had a Manjari chocolate ganache, hazelnut and salted caramel. Both disappeared pretty much without trace.

The Galvin brothers’ London restaurants, I remarked (and as I probably have done before – sorry Ella), are really fine dining restaurants as they, basically, should be done. Basically. Yes, with an extra star or two you’d get more refinement. Yes, the quality occasionally drops. But, but… if you hadn’t ever been to a fine dining restaurant before, go to one of them and you’d know, basically, what it was all about. A primer. Entry level. Could be better. Could be a lot worse. But I can always relax in them and enjoy a meal – which we did. And you can’t always say that about restaurants.


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