Last week saw arguably the biggest restaurant launch of the year so far in the capital, with the unveiling of Galvin at Windows on the 28th floor of the London Hilton on Park Lane.
The 106-seat eaterie, with a separate 98-seat bar (designed by United Designers' Keith Hobbs), was refurbished at a cost of almost £2m. It's now being run by Chris Galvin, and its relaunch comes less than a year after the opening of the chef's first restaurant, Galvin Bistrot de Luxe on London's Baker Street, which he owns in partnership with his brother, Jeff.
"Since Christmas, lots of hotels have approached us about doing a Bistrot de Luxe-style concept. Then Hilton asked me to come and look at this site. Michael Shepherd [the hotel's general manager] said he wanted to make a statement with this," Galvin explains. "Having worked at the Lanesborough and the Ritz in the past, I'm quite hotel-friendly and this was such an exciting project, I couldn't refuse."
Galvin explains that his friend and shareholder at the Baker Street restaurant, Ken Sanker, was helpful in negotiating a deal with Hilton. "We are working on the basis of a share of profits according to turnover," he reveals.
There was only one man Galvin wanted for the head chef's position: his former right-hand man from Orrery days, André Garrett. Garrett was previously head chef at Orrery, having taken over the mantle in December 2002, when Galvin left to become executive chef of the Wolseley.
"I offered the job to André and he said it would be fantastic to work together again," Galvin says. "I couldn't have anyone better."
The menu, which has nine starters, nine mains and five desserts plus cheese, is developed by both of them together. "It's half way between Orrery and Galvin Bistrot in complexity," Galvin continues. "We're not offering an amuse-bouche or pre-dessert as we don't want to be interrupting diners too much, but there's a bit more to the dishes here than at the Bistrot. I've been told by critic Charles Campion that we're just the right side of poncy and that's certainly the aim."
Dishes are driven by the best available fresh produce and the menu will change frequently.
The roast Scottish langoustine starter with slow-cooked pork belly (£14) is a good example. It involves a bed of cauliflower purée surrounded by an intense pork and langoustine reduction, with a dainty square of pork belly placed in the centre, topped with a single, plump langoustine. While the portion looks small, it is rich and packed with concentrated flavours.
At main-course, meanwhile, we were impressed with a perfectly cooked fillet of Guernsey sea bass, served with braised fennel, Jerusalem artichoke and fumet of Pinot Noir (£24). The delicate flavours were expertly balanced, so none overpowered its partners. And Limousin veal cutlet with broad beans, gnocchi and morels (£24), saw a huge, tender piece of the pale-fleshed meat set off by the best seasonal accompaniments and another powerful jus.
Cheese, supplied by Philippe Olivier, is both visually and nasally impressive, though our favourite dessert was a room-temperature Valrhona chocolate fondant, accompanied by white chocolate ice-cream and raspberries (£9).
While it's clearly early days, with the first lunch service attracting 40 customers and the first dinner 86 diners, it seems likely the restaurant will soon be enjoying a full house. And to ensure standards remain high, there's a total of 24 chefs in the brigade.
"I am going to be working here myself four days a week, and two days a week at the Bistrot," Galvin says. "But the two restaurants are only a mile apart, so it's very easy to shuttle between the two."
The restaurant is open for every breakfast, lunch and dinner service, except Saturday lunch and Sunday dinner.
- Seared foie gras, salsify, raisins moelleux and Sauternes, £14
- Bisque of native lobster, spring vegetables and Cognac, £11
- Marinated sea scallop, warm salad of Jersey royals and chives, £14
- Whole Dover sole, clams, cockles and sauce bouillabaisse, £22
- Assiette of new-season lamb, pommes boulangère, spring garlic and oregano jus, £22
- Tournedos of Angus beef, marrow, pommes mousseline and Burgundy sauce, £24
- Vanilla panna cotta, poached cherries, £8
- Caramelised pear tarte tatin, vanilla ice-cream (for 2), £15
- Carpaccio of golden pineapple, coconut sorbet and chilled lime syrup, £8