I've been waiting for this opportunity for a while. Unlike Howard and Ben I don't get into London often and the opportunity to dine at a restaurant that's making such big waves without being bleeding edge fine dining is one not to be missed. Recently voted the AA's London restaurant of the year and receiving the 2006 Catey for best newcomer, the Galvin brothers' eponymously named Bistrot Deluxe has been wowing the public and the critics with a classic no-nonsense bistro offering. Can it really be as good as everyone says?
Galvin is an interesting place, nestled on Baker Street, a glance at its menu hardly belies anything extraordinary. A trawl through French classic cooking with all the standards on show. Confits, rillettes, terrines, prunes and armagnac you know the stuff. Get inside and the look is classic too. Banquettes and white tablecloths, spinning fans and dark wood everywhere. If this were France there would be a hazy smoky air to boot, but the air was clear. The only overtly modern touch is a long window into the world of stainless steel beyond the back of the restaurant.
Comfortable. Our party of seven was well pandered to. A rather well priced menu split the party down the middle, some having a la carte, and others going for the daily prix fixe at £15.50 for lunch (it rises to £17.50 in the evening). Two choices of dish at each course in the prix fixe.
I plumped for the prix fixe. A terrine of duck confit and striking green pistachios was well seasoned, and at the right temperature (so often stone cold). Others had a pumpkin and parmesan soup which was thick and unctuous and very generous.
My main of roasted pollock with clam risotto was perfectly cooked. The competence in the kitchen was clear from the cuisson of the fish. The risotto was flavourful and perfect in consistency too. Sea bass with olives was remarkable for its depth of flavour, as was the cod with coco (borlotti) beans.
When desserts were to be ordered, we discovered that the most popular choice of milk chocolate mousse (set against Brie de Meaux) had run out, but were offered our selection from the a la carte instead. Tarte citron was smooth and finished with a delicate brulee, but was let down with slightly soft pastry and was eclipsed by a magnificent prune and armagnac parfait. An expresso ice cream served with a classic gateau Opera was a little insipid.
Service was usually attentive, if a little inaccurate. A reordered bottle of water took it's time arriving, and incessant refilling of glasses (a pet hate) led to a wrong drink in a wrong glass. The bill had to be reissued through a mistake as well. All in all though these are tiny gripes. It was efficient and friendly.
I can see why it has made the impact it has. The only criticisms I've seen have been about its rather conservative and austere approach. I think those are its strengths - the combination of competent cooking and good pricing has made it very busy. The brothers Galvin have done very well indeed. Simple things, done well. If only more restaurants could follow that mantra...
Galvin Bistrot De Luxe, 66 Baker Street, London W1 Telephone: 020 7935 4007