We used to have the ‘£100 rule’, because we maintained it was possible to fine-dine in London for around that figure (for two and with an acceptable wine). Then, defeated by inflation, we gave up. But on a beautiful Summer afternoon, we seem to have gone back in time: the £45 three course lunch at Galvin at Windows, inclusive of water, wine and coffee, took us by surprise with dishes that went well beyond what one expects in such value lunches. Please follow us to the 28th floor of the Hilton on Park Lane.
An amuse of cold clear tomato ‘consomme’ with peas (and the very attentive service) are immediately striking. Not to mention the all important bread, which – we agreed with an Italian waiter – was excellent (the waiter said it was made in-house, though other sources conflict).
After the amuses, a table by the window becomes free, and although we are sitting at a perfectly nice table ‘in the second row’, well-spaced from the others, some offers just cannot be refused….(but to stress the point: the room is laid out really nicely, and one can be happy wherever she is seated).
For starters, we had a delicate but flavoursome, dense San Marzano tomato gazpacho (with garlic in Anglosaxon rather than Mediterranean quantity), very fresh. Only the mozzarella did not offer much flavour. And a superb flamed mackerel, one of those simple looking dishes that take your breath away for the precision of the flavours (the side microveggie were stunning).
A duck main dish is elegantly presented and prepared,
a shiny cherry jus supporting the main produce robustly and intriguingly.
But the cooking (in butter) of a cod was out of this world, making it translucent, moist and tender (skin wisely removed). The seasoning was bold. We often complain about dishes being over-salted. This dish is a lesson on the fact that it is not just a matter of sheer quantity of salt, and that much depends on the overall balance. The egg and the chicken jus somehow combined with the cod to provide a strong sensory attack that nonetheless remained, even for us, on the right side of the threshold.
We were looking forward with some trepidation (given our fussines with this specific dessert) to a Tonka bean pannacotta. But the specimen passed muster with flying colours, having achieved a delicious creamy consistency. And for something lighter, the vanilla poached and roasted apricots with apricot cream and pineapple sorbet were sweetly refreshing:
Just like sometimes restaurants can have a night off, sometimes they pull off the perfect meal, when everything feels smooth and there is not one single fault, and a review reduces to a mere sequence of accolades. And even the weather helps.
oh, and this view is the reason why, according to Wikipedia, Her Majesty the Queen objected to the construction of the Hilton Hotel – nobody likes to have her garden overlooked:
Of course, this type of experience does not occur by chance – behind certain results there is immense preparation and fantastic teams both in the front room and in the kitchen. When a restaurant is well organised and there is true leadership, it can work well whether the boss is present or not. On this occasion, the bosses were neither in the front room nor in the kitchen, yet the two great teams obviously included people that one day will be bosses, because they managed to serve a large, quite full room entirely smoothly. Well done, guys.
After the meal, we strolled to our favourite destination after a lunch in Mayfair
We were coming with eyes trained to demand perfection in the dishes, and unforgiving of even the minutest sloppiness. We would like to pay a final tribute to Andre Garret and his team: their dishes met more stringent standards of precise execution than some of the works at the Royal Academy!