It would take a lot to pull anyone away from the pomp and pageantry of The Ritz, but for chef Marc Hardiman that lure came in the form of Galvin at Windows: the sky-high, fine dining restaurant situated on the 28th floor of the five-star London Hilton on Park Lane. While the enviable birds-eye view across leafy Hyde Park will make you want to book, it’s the French haute cuisine pioneered by the eponymous Galvin brothers that will make you want to stay – and it’s exactly that which drew Hardiman away from his tenure at the Ritz to a restaurant just down the road.
Hardiman’s career has seen him work across some of the best kitchens in the UK and Australia, earning multiple rosettes and Michelin stars along the way in establishments such as Somerset’s Charlton House and Devon’s Bovey Castle. He worked under Marco Pierre White and, back in the day, enrolled on the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship.
It’s the kind of CV that brings with it a serious reputation. So much so that, when he took over the reins of Galvin at Windows in 2020, he was dubbed “the star to bring back the star”, referring to the Michelin accolade the restaurant had lost earlier that year. And while it may not have materialised yet, Hardiman remains true to the Galvin brand, admiring the brothers for their attitude in and out of the kitchen. “Chris and Jeff [Galvin] are industry legends and both humble gentlemen,” he says. “Their ethos for cooking and seasonal food is very much after my own heart.”
The Galvin brothers are no stranger to London’s food scene. In fact, the duo occupy several eateries in the capital, including Galvin La Chapelle and the Bistrot in Spitalfields, the Galvin Bar and Grill in Bloomsbury and Hardiman’s outpost on Park Lane. The food here is intrinsic to the brothers’ foodie DNA – innovative French bistro-style food – combined with Hardiman’s passion for seasonal produce, transpiring into plates of Label Rouge guinea fowl with slow-cooked egg, Scottish Highlands venison Wellington and tornados of beef Rossini with truffles.
From his earliest food memory to what influences his menus, we catch up with Hardiman before the festive season kicks in to learn more about his career so far.
My earliest memory is of spending time with my nan, baking cakes and always [having] a roast on a Sunday. Trust me, the saying is true: no one makes a better Sunday roast than your nan.
I started my career at 16 at Bath College before I got the chance to spend the summer working at Castle House Hotel in Hereford. The restaurant had just been awarded four rosettes which I didn’t have a clue about at the time – I was only supposed to be there for three months and [didn’t] come home for three years!
I honestly don’t know, but it would have to be something creative, as sitting at a desk behind a computer all day is not for me. People that know me will tell you I’ve got ants in my pants and I’ve got to be on the move all the time.
After [working at] Castle House, the [team there] decided to open a second restaurant, [and] I was lucky enough to be part of the opening team. I then moved up to Cheshire to work at Nunsmere Hall Hotel before moving back to the outskirts of Bath to work at the Michelin-starred Charlton House.
Work hard, listen, and write everything down so you can always look back on it. But most of all, once you find a chef that believes in you, trusts you and mentors you, stay with them. Trust and mentorship is hard to come by.
I’ve got pretty big feet, but whenever you start anywhere new there is always pressure, though I like to think I’m at my best when under pressure! My style of cooking is completely different to Joo’s; I’m more about sustainability and I have a very Anglo-French background so it evolved from there.
The biggest things that influence the menus here are provenance and the seasons. Nobody wants asparagus in December and why should they? We have plenty of great produce grown every day throughout the country.
It has to be a Sunday roast because it’s about sharing and coming together – hopefully I make my nan proud! When I’m not cooking, I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth so Tony’s Chocoloney Sea Salt and Milk Caramel is a winner.
St John’s! [It] masters nose-to-tail cookery with humble ingredients and the [team] always deliver on flavour and seasonality.
Tom Booton seems to be smashing it at the Dorchester, cooking modern, good English food. I really need to fit in a trip.
I like all the dishes, otherwise they wouldn’t make it onto the menu! But we have a new dish going live next month which I’ve worked on a lot recently. It’s packed full of flavour and uses seasonal ingredients popular at this time of year, so I suppose it would have to be the upcoming woodland mushrooms with aerated Jerusalem artichoke, miso and barley stew.
Read more: The best winter bars and terraces in London