Dining at Galvin at Windows by the Renaissance Epicurian (guest blogger)

galvin-at-windows-restaurant-interiorWe like to hear about good customer experiences related to companies listed on verygoodservice.com – Here is how The Renaissance Epicurian and her family enjoyed their visit at Galvin at Windows.
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Galvin at Windows is a bit of a favourite in our house, not least because it’s wonderfully friendly and relaxed.  Add to that the near 360o views of London from its high perch on the twenty-eighth floor of the Hilton at Hyde Park, and it’s difficult to beat.

The kitchens are run by Head Chef André Garrett, now well-known for his appearances on The Great British Menu, and Chris Galvin is the Chef Patron.

Our 10 year old is a bit of a foodie – I can remember her eating Barolo and gorgonzola risotto at a year, carpaccio at two, and now at ten she eats sashimi, and the like.  Each school holiday we like to take her somewhere special, and this time it was the turn of the Galvin team.

The room is divided very cleverly, a large horseshoe of tables extends around the exterior of the room, giving almost everyone a view from the windows.  You could sit at the same table several times and the view is never the same twice.  On this occasion we were overlooking Buckingham Palace, and she took great delight in trying to orient herself around the darkening landscape.  Those views soon gave way to a glittering night-time panorama.  The centre of the room is on a slightly raised platform, which also gives a view across London, without compromising the view on the lower level.
As you look over the menu the staff bring you a white pain d’Epi – always beautifully crisp and shaped, you break off your ‘wheat ears’ individually – it’s a good way of providing decent
crust and chew in the bread, and is a variety I like very much*.
The amuse is an incredibly scented and flavoured shot of tomato water – incredibly time consuming to make, it’s elegant, refreshing, mouthwatering yet deeply satisfying.  I always leave thinking I’m going to make some for myself, and return having failed to set aside the necessary time.
I’ve long favoured the seared foie gras dish, and the 10 year old bravely opted to give it a go.  The dish is served in a soup plate, on a bed of chicorino, topped with a large seared piece of foie gras.  This is then topped with a crunchy duck pastilla, full of tender shredded duck, redolent of crispy aromatic duck.  There is also a piece of confit lemon – tangy, rich, ridiculously moreish, palate cleansing umami… Into the dish is poured the date consommé which is fully flavoured and sweet, but with a savoury depth.  It’s simply one of my favourite dishes in London, and I know several other customers who like me, never eat anything
else here.  We both had this, and though she loved the majority of the dish, she wasn’t so keen on the foie gras – she’s ten – it’s a texture thing.

Galvin at windows restaurant London

Hubby had the terrine of foie gras, which is served with a bitter-sweet tangy orange purée, spiced salt and toasted brioche.  The brioche is always crisp, rich and light.
Just lately three of our children have become beef addicts, and their tastes are for rarer and rarer meat.  Spotting a fillet of Scotch beef on the menu, the 10 yo decided to go with that.  It is served medium by the kitchen, on top of a disk of rich dense braised ox cheek, and the smoothest mash imaginable.  She loved the beef, and the mash, but after taking a couple of mouthfuls of the ox cheek, found that too rich for her.  Again – she’s ten – I’d have been slightly surprised if she had eaten it all.
I find myself increasingly hankering for firm fish these days, so had the John Dory. Served with endive braised in orange, a cauliflower purée, curry oil and golden raisins the bitter-sweet endive offsets the purée and the dense fish.

The Hubby plumped for his favourite:  poached Cotswold white chicken, a little Borettane onion tart, foie gras, some spring garlic purée, and baby vegetables. Borretane onions are small, firm, mild and slightly sweeter than most onions.  Offset with the incredibly densely flavoured garlic purée (much nicer than perhaps it sounds), they provide a counterpoint to the rich savouriness of the chicken.  I often have this dish too, and it just proves how far removed good chicken is from most of the insipid fowl that crosses our plates.

The 10 year old is rather partial to dessert, and fancied the tarte tartin (I make a plum tarte tartin she likes), but as it’s for two, I said perhaps we could share it.  When it duly arrived I doubted an army could share it – but I do know someone who regularly orders a double portion at Claridge’s just for himself.  In our case the tarte triumphed over us, and Andrew Sicklin, the restaurant manager, kindly popped it into a doggy bag for to us to take home.

The Hubby had the banana soufflé served with chocolate and peanut  – I’ve had this myself in the past, and it’s not my favourite combination.  There’s something about warm bananas that I think could divide diners.  Served with a good hit of alcohol, of almost any description, I think warm banana works.  Without alcohol is reminds me of baby-food – but given how many children I’ve had, perhaps it’s just me.  The peanut butter ice-cream is delicious.

Galvin works as a restaurant on many levels.  As a couple, you can have a romantic evening, overlooking that glittering view; as a group of chums – there’s a great bar just next door that you can go to before and after you eat.  You could just as easily impress you maiden aunt here, as a new conquest, or your boss.
The key to this success is as much about the absolutely perfect service as the excellent food.  As this is the home of Fred Sirieix, the renowned creator of The Art of Service, this is really not a surprise.  These standards are meticulously maintained by Andrew Sicklin and his team, but with good cheer, hospitality and warmth to boot. The 10 year old floated out of the restaurant declaring it her favourite to date.  Now how can you argue with that?
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With our thanks to The Renaissance Epicurian  for this blog post – http://renaissancefoodie.blogspot.co.uk/ – Post originally published in February 2012.
Galvin at Windows is featured on the London restaurants page of verygoodservice.com as at January 2013.
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