Launched in May 2006, and sitting high up on the 28th floor of the 50-year old London Hilton on Park Lane hotel in Mayfair, the 35-table Galvin at Windows offers diners French haute cuisine coupled with elegant surroundings and spectacular panoramic views of the capital’s major landmarks.
The à la carte ‘Menu Prestige’ for dinner (costing £70 per head excluding beverages) which we sampled, offers a choice of just five dishes for each of the three courses. To whet our appetite whilst we were glancing down at the mouth-watering options put before us, we were offered chilled champagne followed by warm crusty white and brown bread complemented by a cone of lightly salted butter sitting on an elegant black slate.
Before we reached for our starters, we were served an amuse-bouche of deliciously-creamy green pea velouté garnished with dill oil and a purple edible flower, a recipe which immediately offered a good impression of what was to follow. Paired with a medium-bodied white Verdicchio from Trattoria San Lorenzo in Italy courtesy of the sommelier, I opened the meal with thick slices of marinated Loch Fyne salmon which were separated from the finely cut pieces of yellow and red beetroot, orange and pink grapefruit and radish by a tangy but superb horseradish cream. Equally impressive and brimming with flavour, my guest enjoyed the salad of asparagus which was joined by a slow cooked duck egg and a reblochon sauce.
With our main course served after an hour of arriving at Galvin, the meal was nicely paced. On a perfectly clear evening, it is very easy to interrupt the flow of conversation and move to the window just to admire the spectacular vista and pick out yet another famous monument on the horizon. Our native French hosts were continuously attentive, assisting each time when we got up and returned to our chair and folding the crisp white serviette when either one of us was away from the table. Following a sumptuous entrée, and paired with a glass of Weingut Niklas Sudtiroler Lagrein red wine from Trentino-Alto Adige in Italy, I tried the summer vegetable tart which consisted of a round light and airy pastry filled with wholesome and nutritious vegetables, namely white and pink radish, courgettes, asparagus, spring onion and baby carrots, to name but a few. Lying on a base of softly melted pieces of mozzarella, caramelised onion purée and quinoa, and complemented by a small jug of thick aged balsamic vinegar, this dish was extremely filling and simply divine.
To break up the courses, our host delivered a platter of five French cheeses before dessert, ranging in order of strength and density (Taupiniere from Charente Poitou to the highly pungent Roquefort Papillon Gold sourced from the Pyrenees). This was served with raisin bread as well as homemade sunflower seed and parmesan crackers.My dining partner headed straight for a medium-well done rack of Cornish lamb, garnished with cos lettuce and carrot on a base of pea purée, which she enjoyed with a small side bowl of lamb and vegetable bolognaise. A bottle of Rioja and a delicate mint jus completed this exceptional dish.
With little room remaining, I was very nearly tempted to pass on dessert. Although the Rum Baba with golden raison compote and crème Fontainebleau, one of my favourite sweets, caught my eye, I went instead for the English strawberries, Ricotta mousse and black pepper ice cream. This would not have been my natural choice, but after some persuasion from the staff at Galvin to venture out of my comfort zone and try something completely new, I decided to take the plunge. As it turned out, I had no regrets. The very smooth Ricotta mousse was encompassed by a deep red crust which could then be mixed on your spoon with the bluey grey-coloured ice cream. It sounds like a strange concoction, but the kick from the ice cream combined with the soft texture of the mousse and meringue, along with the zing of the strawberry flakes and fresh strawberries, actually worked perfectly together, and I proceeded to clear the plate with ease. My guest finished her meal with a vegan chocolate mousse and a ball of refreshing raspberry sorbet which disappeared equally as quick.
Fresh mint tea and petit fours rounded off an exquisite dinner before one last surprise – a walk through this eatery’s kitchen to see the craftsmen in action and a rare visit to the restaurant’s outdoor balcony to witness first-hand London’s nocturnal skyline in all its glory. For those wanting an after dinner tipple, there is a trolley beaming with some of the finest genres of cognac spanning Remy Martin XO to Louis XIII, with the latter costing a mere £160 for a single shot.
This really is a five-star establishment. With excellent hospitality, first-class food and stunning views, this makes it one of our favourite restaurants to date, and we could not recommend it highly enough.
To make a reservation at Galvin at Windows, visit www.galvinatwindows.com or call 0207 208 4021.
By Simon Wittenberg MIOJ