Impromptu lunch at Galvin at Windows, London Hilton Metrople – 4th May 2011

04th May 2011

Left with several hours to kill in London after turning up early for a wine tasting (possibly the first time ever!), I call Steve to see where I could go for lunch, an inexpensive lunch and one with decent food.

Left with several hours to kill in London after turning up early for a wine tasting (possibly the first time ever!), I call Steve to see where I could go for lunch, an inexpensive lunch and one with decent food. Andre Garret sprung to mind, not only because he is heavily featured on Great British Menu this week, but we also met up with him a couple of weeks ago at the Roux Scholarship Awards in London. So off to Park Lane I went and whilst I know directions are not my forte to put it mildly, if someone had just mentioned  it was at the London Hilton, it would have saved me about 10 minutes of wandering aimlessly about looking for 22 Park Lane.

A rather unassuming outer shell houses an open plan reception with an upmarket corporate feel. Escorted to the lifts, which was programmed from a stand outside, I was lead to lift D and left to wait in anticipation. Now, is it only me, or would anyone else get excited about a lift that doesn’t have any buttons, well I did. Not to mention the mock crock chocolate brown leather interior, where would this all lead!

The reception area is very shinny in off white leather and dark wood and manned with efficient and well presented staff.  I was shown my table overlooking the magnificent view of the city without a moment’s hesitation. The service here is very slick. Lots of staff to move chairs, fold napkins, change cutlery, pour water, and wait with baited breath for you to finish your final morsel and clear your plate. Efficiency that could almost be mistaken as rushed, and I was in no rush to eat lunch. I had 4 hours to kill and I don’t get to enjoy lunch very often.  So I took my time. I read the menu carefully, absorbing every dish, trying to get an understanding for the chef’s philosophy. It took me seconds to choose what I was having, but I enjoyed reading the menu for probably several hundred more.  With so many eyes on me, I needed to make absolutely sure I was making the right  and final decision. With the food out of the way, I asked for the tasting size of the lunch time wine flight, offered for £9 which wasn’t bad for 2 glasses especially from their typically London priced wine list. The wine list is well written, very French but I liked the paper it was printed on and presentation does make a difference. There weren’t as many exciting wines as I was expecting from the New World, but it may be that there just isn’t the market here for it.

My starter commenced with a Ballontine of slow cooked lamb shoulder, pine nuts, aubergine and pickled vegetables which was promptly brought out moments after my first wine was presented. The dish looked beautiful, very colourful use of the vegetables, with pickled carrots, radishes, both pink and white and the aubergine offered as a puree. For me, they were the winners on this dish. The Ballontine, served cold as a terrine, and came to life when eaten in conjunction with the sharp vinegar flavours of its colourful companions. The wine, a Chardonnay from Exmoor Drive, Xanadu, Australia from 2009 was a lovely rich, fruity and creamy wine that was right up my street, but sadly fell a little short of being a really good match for this dish. There was nothing that was wrong with the match in essence, and maybe it was because I felt a little underwhelmed by the lamb, but there is a strong leading flavour on this dish with the pickled vegetables, and the lamb failed to stand up to them. And the wine pairing did nothing to enhance this dish, nor did the dish bring out any further hidden depths in this lovely wine.

I had an intermediate course of Asparagus with broccoli and bacon. The asparagus were the largest, fattest stalks I have ever seen and I was beginning to realise that portion controlled was not really a problem here. The dish was a nice touch, the garnish of crispy bacon bits, saving the dish and my favourite bites.

The main course of Skate wing was brought out and I thought I might faint if I was forced to eat it all, it was literally a whole Skate wing. But I embraced the task, quickly realising that eating the dish was not to be the only challenge set before me. Deboning the fish probably should have come with a medal of its own, but it was, on the whole, less taxing than filleting Dover Sole at the table in front of an audience.

The wine here was significantly more successful, having been offered Fiano, Mandra Rossa, 2009 from Sicily.  A lovely very fresh, highly acidic, sprucy affair that with a little time to warm gently, soften into a vibrant aromatic wine whose fighting acidity to start was just right to match the onion puree served on this dish.

My dessert was to be a Carpaccio of pineapple with honeycomb and coconut ice cream. Now these are two of the best things ever that I like to eat on a dessert, however the pressure will always been on the chefs who present me these dishes as my all time favourite dessert is Steve’s marinated pineapple with coconut porridge. And whilst this was by no means an all time classic, I did like the lightness of touch with the Carpaccio, and the honeycomb was some light it crumbled as you ate it. This was by far my best dish of the day and the more successful as the portion was reasonable and considered.

Coffee and petit fours concluded my meal and with the bill I was given a jar of marshmallows, a touch that I really really liked. I almost felt like asking if I could take them home for LR, but as long as she never finds out that I ate marshmallows without her, I reckon I could get away with it.

All in, I was there for 2 hours, and that was a stretched out affair. This restaurant is obviously use to doing the large numbers for service, both the quantity and speed of staff is testament to that, but I do feel that they could of paced service a little more, especially for those that are clearly not having a quick business lunch. As for my cheap lunch, not so much. £53 included 12.5% service, coffee (£4.95) and a bottle of water (£4.50) but with the decadent surroundings, a view second to none in London, and a payroll just as impressive, I guess you do literally get what you pay for.


Further reading