Lucy Self rides 28 floors for a Michelin-starred meal at Galvin at Windows
Despite being less than a decade old (it opened in the spring of 2006), Galvin at Windows is what you’d call a ‘city classic’ – meaning it enjoys the kind of tourist trap tag usually reserved for the stalwarts of our capital’s restaurant scene.
Part of its success was due to the opening and enduring buzz surrounding Chef Patron, Chris Galvin, who’s award-grabbing CV (The Ritz, Ménage a Trois, The Wolseley and Galvin Bistro de Luxe) quite rightly made him a culinary star. Then there was the location, a stone’s throw from Hyde Park at the London Hilton Park Lane; the 1930’s style interior, with jaw-dropping views of the city’s most iconic skyscrapers; and the French haute menu which won them their first Michelin star in 2009 (an accolade they have retained ever since).
But is it still relevant? With new stars, debut chefs, loftier views and a current veering towards casual dining, can it still compete for the attention of us fickle food obsessed folk?
The simple answer is yes. For the bar. Where we enjoyed a cracking couple of post dinner cocktails. I defy anyone not to sit on one of their velvet-lined window seats, Old-Fashioned in hand, lights of the city flickering behind, and not wish you could end every day nestled within its expertly run bosom. Posh without being intimidating, buzzy but never too busy and, most importantly, impressive enough to show off when family members visit from the sticks (bless).
Restaurant-side the answer slightly more complex. The food, from Head Chef Joo Won, is fantastic. From the pre-fix three-course dinner menu we had a fat, becrusted langoustine surrounded by a garlic veloute and a beautiful plate of marinated Loch Fyne salmon with dots of Dorset crab, beetroot and horseradish cream to start.
Then mains of Iberico pork and Angus beef. The pink slices of loin served with a puree of cumin-laced carrot, brooding cavolo nero jollied up with crisp lardons and a pig’s head croquette. Finally a glorious, golden Tart Tatin.
However faultless the food may be, the same can’t be said for the service. So enthusiastically attentive it often slips into stifling territory. I couldn’t help but notice the decided lack of people and atmosphere on our Friday night visit. And, as evident as it is that plenty of taste and money went into the interior design when it opened, it needs updating unless they want people to feel like they are stepping into the 1930’s by way of the mid 2000’s.
That being said, the thrill of sending the lift up to the 28th floor remains. As does the glee in releasing that bit of green you’ve been trying to place is actually the gardens at Buckingham Palace (a good view never ages). My opinion on a few modernising retweaks and loosening of proverbial top buttons aside, Galvin at Windows deserves its status as a great restaurant serving some of the best cuisine of its kind in the capital. Plus a truly show stopping bar.
Galvin at Windows -London Hilton on Park Lane Hotel, 22 Park Lane, London W1K 1BE