Today was something special.
A longstanding lunch engagement, had with the company of the charming lady who had previously treated me to two meals recounted on these pages – firstly, the South Devon crustacean at Fishworks, and much more recently a veggie bonanza at Vanilla Black.
I had previously inquired if we could go to one of the Galvin group of restaurants – and as we had recently done some successful business together, it was agreed we would try their ‘La Chapelle’ – in the City, and located handily close to my offices.
The dining room was very classy – clean, bright and classic. The ceiling is 30 ft high and the building is Grade II listed – and it shows. The menus are unashamedly French. The service is very well judged (at least our main waitress – more on that later).
I, as ever, was drawn to the crab. Dorset crab, served in a lasagne with buerre Nantais and pea shoots. This looked superb and tasted ok – I’ve no idea if Dorset crab and Devon crab are any different, so closely located as they are, but maybe in a psychological reaction every time I’ve had Dorset on a menu it has slightly underwhelmed. Such are the travails of those who overthink their food. This dish – a restaurant signature I was informed – had finish but for me came up slightly short in taste.
The main was a different story altogether. I was very indecisive in the choosing (nothing unusual here) and was recommended the Magret of Goosnargh duck served with a tarte fine of endive, beetroot (in pureed, almost gel form) & violet artichokes. Bloody hell, as Sir Alex Ferguson might say. The duck was fantastic – genuinely crispy skin, and rich, fatty, ruby red meat underneath, served in wonderful three bite portions. The central pasty and endive construction and the various artichoke segs and blobs of beet combined to make harmony on the tongue. Cracking.
Last up was again a tough choice – light fruit or rich chocolate? A Tuesday, and a desire to go as light as possible in what is a bumper week of food meant I opted for the Stawberry dish. Specifically macerated gariguette strawbs with shortbread, lemon verbena ice cream and baby basil. There were also marshmallow like cubes, which I think were rose scented. Anyway – a strong finish to a lovely meal. The thin slices of shortbread in particular were light but had enough about them to offer a bit of crunch.
Liz chose a wine I’d previously picked at Vanilla Black, a picpoul from Languedoc. We also had sparkling water – that a seemingly unaware waiter insisted on filling with still when in my glass, despite my protestations. The bread was of note too – I had a single slice of the brown and it was befitting a restaurant of this calibre. A final grudge though, further to the sparkling water fiasco, was that my colleague requested his candied walnuts be removed from his starter. The restaurant complied, but I asked if they could be bought along in a side pot (I mean candied walnuts – sounds banging, non?) but of them, there was no sign.
These are minor gripes and this is a restaurant well deserving of it’s Michelin star. Modern French cooking, skillfully executed. A lovely way to spend Tuesday lunch.