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Restaurant Review: Galvin Cafe de Luxe with a jealous glimpse of Galvin La Chapelle in Spitalfields

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and asked for the “menu” and just been given the menu? I used to go to Galvin Bistro de Luxe a fair bit and they have always had a “menu“. Having read all the fuss about Galvin La Chapelle I thought that whilst I couldn’t afford to go to La Chapelle in a January I could give its smaller and cheaper sibling – Galvin Cafe de Luxe – a go. I just assumed they had a “menu“.
Well, I was wrong. I sat there. I asked. I was told no. If I had done a little bit of research I would have realised that I could have just gone to La Chapelle as they do have a menu at lunchtimes. £24.50 for three courses. We ended up spending that on food on two courses in the Cafe. Also, as I have been comparing menus on Galvin’s website I notice that the pudding I had, the rhum baba with crème Chantilly, is three pounds more expensive in the La Chapelle than the Cafe. Is there any difference between them? Do you get three pounds more chefly inspiration baked into it?
Galvin La Chapelle - where you want to be going

So we sat down, held our impecunious breath and had a look at the menu. It seemed to be standard French fare. I went for the calves liver and polenta and my friend went for the beef bavette. We then waited. In the time that it took the main courses to arrive we demolished three baskets of bread which they just kept refilling and we for no good reason kept eating. This is definitely not a complaint and is a recommendation of their service. Also, good bread.

My calves liver didn’t really inspire me. It was a little feeble in taste and portions. I feel that calves liver is one of those dishes which should be robust and knock you about a bit. My friend’s bavette looked a whole lot better and was done enticingly rare. That said, she was also a little ho-hum about it.

Jay Rayner’s review in the Guardian on La Chapelle said the rhum baba was “quite simply the best I’ve ever eaten, and as I’m a sucker for light sponge soaked in sugar syrup and liquor I’ve eaten far too many. I order it in the hope of finding something light and ethereal, that extraordinary balance of a savarin robust enough to soak up gallons of syrup, yet light enough to fall apart on the tongue. This one does exactly that. Think kisses from kittens and the brush of angel’s wings on a baby’s pert cheeks, and all the other much-loved Athena poster motifs“.

Well having read that explosion of words I had to give it a go so I ordered one. Hmmm. Jay Rayner was sitting in the La Chapelle and therefore would have paid that extra three pounds which must have changed things a lot (and I presume being recognised as Jay Rayner never hurts). It was good, but not something I’ld return to and definitely not as good as a kitten.

Finally, the ambience. The Cafe felt a bit like an upmarket newbuild. Which it is. As opposed to my glimpses of La Chapelle which looked magnificant. Anyway lesson learnt, don’t go to the mid market offshoot, just go to the proper place.

  • Price – £25ish per head without effective drinking and two courses.
  • 35 Spital Sq, City of London E1 6DY

PS if you have read this you should probably read my later review of my visit to La Chapelle here.

PPS Cafe de Luxe has now become Cafe a Vin (presumably to avoid confusion with the Luxe bar).

6 Comments

  1. The Grubworm

    That's a shame, I've been to their Baker St original several times for the, very reasonable (and probably cheaper than the above) set lunch and never been disappointed. It would be interesting to compare and contrast with La Chapelle though.

    I wonder if they're doing a bit of a Gordon and over-expanding? One thing that seem consistent though: their bread is very good.

  2. Tom

    I really like their Baker Street branch and love the ambience and experience of eating there.

    I find at the moment that I am more critical of French food than any other type as we have been eating it as a cuisine in London for far longer (and bad summer holidays as kids). There is therefore a slight lack of uniqueness or surprise that a good Asian restaurant can bring.

    Still good French food… unstopable.

    I am arranging a lunch next week at La Chapelle and will hopefully be impressed.

    Enjoy Eastside Inn. We went there in NY style (just for puddings at the bistro) but haven't gone for the full experience.

  3. The Grubworm

    That Baker St branch is consistently good isn;t it. i remember having the best Venison hash i've ever tasted there.

    It's funny, but i didn't really pay attention to French food in London until a couple of years ago. When i wasn't out finding the best Indian etc, I was hunting down pubs, cafes and Italian restaurants. So my culinary map of London was very different. Now of course, places like Galvins, Boudin Blanc etc are all very much on the map.

    I'll be sure to write up Eastside Inn bistro on the weekend… Am quite excited as i missed out on Noisette.

  4. Wild Boar

    An extra £3 sounds very reasonable for kisses from kittens and brushes of angel wings. Or maybe he was exaggerating a wee bit ;-)

  5. Tom

    Haha, perhaps the rhum from the baba got to him.

  6. I have learn some excellent stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you put to make the sort of great informative website.

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