Galvin La Chapelle is the kind of place that makes you fall in love. A big statement, yes, but stay with me.
Firstly, it’s beautiful: the grand building in which it’s located is the Grade II-listed St Botolph’s Hall in Spitalfields Market, a handsome 19th-century red brick structure that started life as a girls’ school and stands tall and imposing on Spital Square. Inside, drama continues through the vertiginous ceilings, huge circular chandeliers hanging from exposed timber beams, tall marble pillars and tables flanked by palm fronds. It’s a class act before you’ve even sat down.
An efficient and enthusiastic front-of-house team run the show, bursting with knowledge and genuine enthusiasm for the restaurant as they led us to our table. Once settled, sommelier Gaetano Giangaspero enchanted not only with his wine choices, but the stories behind them: the chapel after which the restaurant is named is actually one that overlooks the vineyards in France where much of the wine featured on the list is made. That said, it was the English-produced Nyetimber sparkling that welcomed us on arrival, and it wasn’t until half-way through my second glass that I even thought about opening the menu.
As you’d expect at a restaurant from the much celebrated Galvin brothers, food is full-on French. In surroundings like these, the rich and indulgent qualities of the likes of Chateaubriand with truffle pomme puree, and ballotine of foie gras, are the only dishes that could possibly live up to those grand, lofty rafters. A restaurant signature is a Dorset crab lasagne, sandwiching sweet seafood between wafer-thin, delicate discs of al dente pasta, the whole lot swathed in foamy, creamy, chive-flecked beurre nantais sauce and topped with verdant pea shoots. A tuna tartare saw jewel-like cubes of the ruby red fish plated simply with a splodge of creamy and potent wasabi mayo.
Mains were equally luxurious - veal with morels, and duck breast with foie gras agnolotti (plump pasta parcels filled with the ultra-rich, velvety liver), sharpened with Asian spiced plum puree. As previously mentioned, wines were superb throughout, but with an order of the cheese board (read: trolley laden with so many to choose from it took some serious negotiations to narrow it down to a reasonable number) came not only a stellar dessert wine, but a port and a sherry, too. So, basically, a mini wine flight just with one course. It’s the moment that sealed the deal for me, and I’ve been head-over-heels with the place ever since.
35 Spital Square, E1 6DY; 020 7299 0400; galvinrestaurants.com