The Galvin brothers teamed up over 10 years ago, with a view to opening a number of restaurants, each providing the best food in its given cuisine. These include: Windows, on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton, which champions elegant, contemporary French food; and, La Chapelle, which focuses more on traditional, familiar French fare. I’ve had the fortune to go to both of these recently (owing to the deals available during the London Restaurant Festival), and felt it to be risking a faux pas if I was not at least review one of them.
What do they do?
La Chapelle is a wonderfully open and atmospheric space (a little more lively, I might add, than a chapel), with a refined, well-considered menu, consisting of a wide variety of delicate meats with creative accompaniments, and a vast wine list.
What did we have?
The offer we’d bagged was a 3-course set menu, with a glass of champagne, for £29. Not the cheapest set menu in the world, but for Michelin-starred food and a carefully crafted menu, this was a pretty tempting proposition.
I started with the Pig’s Head & Ham Hock Terrine, and Piccalilli, and Ellie had the Charred Fillet of Cornish Mackerel, Dashi & English Raddish. With Pig’s Head being quite a popular menu item these days, it was refreshing to see it in the form of a terrine, which flaked away gorgeously. This was accompanied by a piccalilli which was deconstructed – a masterstroke, as it allowed for each mouthful to taste a little bit different from the last. Life as a student hasn’t led to copious consumption of vegetables (nor, I should add, large quantities of terrine), but I think I could definitely get on board with this ‘vitamins’ lark if they always came in this form. Ellie spoke highly of her generous portion of mackerel, which had a full flavour due to the dashi, and a stark crunch from the raddish.
Next on the agenda was Goosnargh Confit Duck Leg, Quinoa & Braised Turnip. As you can see below, the skin was delightfully crispy and prominent, which was all too alluring. The quinoa served as a reminder that we were in East London, but was relatively inoffensive: we couldn’t quite see how if fit in with the dish, but I suppose it bulked it out a little. The sweetness of the turnip complemented the duck nicely, but perhaps a softer vegetable would’ve been more appropriate, given the delicate texture of the duck.
I finished with the Fig & Almond Tarte, Fig Jam and Honey Frozen Yogurt, and Ellie went for the Red Plum Brulée, Spiced Plum Compote and Honey Madeleine. Both of these were outstanding. Fig is something of an irresistible flavour (and, like the Pig’s Head, seemingly very fashionable at the moment), and has a peculiar texture, which set the scene well. The real treat, though, was the frozen yogurt – this went perfectly with the almond flavours, and provided a delicate sweetness to offset the harshness of the fig. Perhaps the additional decorative segments of fig were a little surplus to requirements, but that’s a mild complaint.
Ellie definitely made a smart choice with the brulée – the spiced plum really came through, but not so as to overpower the very crunchy, sickly caramel. A nice twist on a classic.
Value for money: 3/5 – I’ve come across set menus at a lower price that are more creative and out of the ordinary, but it’s worth bearing in mind that La Chapelle strives not to be a gimmicky restaurant – it does traditional French food and does it well, and this was ultimately good value for money.
Pretentiousness: 3/5 – yes, it’s a converted chapel, and yes there was rotting fruit on the table (see below), but there was still a genuine, elegant feel to the venue and to the service – it was not quite as try-hard as some Spitalfields places.
Atmosphere: 5/5 – the setting was beautiful, and the service attentive and almost ceremonious (perhaps even too much so!)
We thought La Chapelle made for a lovely evening, and provided a decent set menu. I’m sure we’d return, but perhaps would wait until we can afford the tasting menu, to see if that’s where the chapel really comes into its own and offers something more exciting.