On a Saturday afternoon after a refreshing stay at The Athenaeum Hotel lunch was required and the obvious and perfect choice was the experience of fine dining and the best of British produce: Galvin At The Athenaeum Hotel. Brought together by Michelin-starred chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin who have several well-known restaurants in London and across the country.
The main restaurant sits in a room off from the Athenaeum Hotel reception and bar area. There are touches of its history: the parquet flooring and paintings suggest the 30s, while vivid streaks of colour in the furniture keep things modern. Pleasingly, the impression is not especially one of being in a hotel: there are no guests trailing past, no overhead check-ins. This is important as the Galvin name is displayed proudly and rightly so. On a Saturday afternoon the restaurant was 80% full and popular with passer by’s as well as guests like us. It’s comfortable to be comfortable: there are no tablecloths, no glitz, no fussing. This is luxury with its collar undone.
Toni looked after us and helped with the tough decisions of the starters as there were quite as few that grabbed our attention! One choice that won (after a while thinking) was the lasagne of Dorset Crab a great idea from Toni! The dish was light and not heavy as you would expect and think when you hear lasagne. It was a nice change to what I might have usually ordered and the portion was perfect for a starter. The crab was fresh and subtle in between the slices of thin lasagne pasta with Nantais butter sauce – a buttery creamy sauce which worked perfectly with the dish. The wine match for this starter was Galvin Girardin Bourgogne Chardonnay Terroir Noble – a Clean and fruity wine with hints of mineral and pear character; a superb quality wine to start. The second choice was Smoked Barbary duck breast, crassane pear & turnip remoulade, the dusk was meaty and pears sweet. It was a real spring like starter and fresh tasting and again another great suggestion from Toni. The wine match for this dish was Terre Rouge 2010 Bordeaux – Cedar, black cherry and pepper nose. The tannins have just a touch or rustic under-ripeness that blends well with the red fruit and black pepper bursting on the palette. That pepper just lingers and lingers on the finish.
For the main course Breast of Goosnargh chicken, potato aligot & grelot onions which was really moist, creamy and to me felt like a dish you would have on a cold night sitting in front of a fire. It felt like real comfort home made food and I think an addition of butternut squash would have been perfect. The chicken was a great piece of meat and had lovely flavours that worked well with the additional order of purple sprouting broccoli and sauté spinach. Wine matching for this dish was Les Grenettes Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Lemon and spice make this a fruity while textured wine. It tastes like the chalk soil from which it comes, very mineral and flinty. The other main dish chosen was the interesting sounding Haunch of Denham Estate venison, smoked mash & chocolate. The addition of pomegranate worked well with the chocolate that was not overpowering and added a popping sensation in the mouth. The wine match for this dish was Le Petit Saint Vincent Saumur-Champigny with aromas of intense black cherry fruit and purple flowers with hints of wet, red clay all backed by a peppery meatiness. But sadly although the wine was fabulous the meat was over cooked and tough to eat, when this was mentioned to the staff they could not apologise more and passed the information on to the chef who was horrified at this error. We would like to try this dish again as it was all very tasty apart from the venison not being cooked to perfection as you would expect at a Galvin restaurant.
The cheese trolley was then wheeled in and the sight was pretty impressive with lots of choice on offer. We went for some cheeses that were new to us: Lincolnshire Poacher (which does sound like a great name for an Ale!), Dalston goats cheese, Rollright, Cardo and Beenleigh Blue. These are all English cheeses and Toni helped talk us through the cheeses and where they were from and the type of cheese you would expect it to taste like. I was impressed with the Dalston a goats cheese which was unlike any other I have tasted. The Rollright was creamy and Brie like and worked well with the crackers and chutney provided with the cheese. We were given the Galvin 10 year Tawny Port – Quinta De La Rosa to accompany the cheese. This is from Portugal and it is a rich and elegant blend with wonderful aromas. On the palate it is complex with powerful dried fruit, figs, honey and almonds with a long pleasing finish
Then it was time for the sweet stuff! One choice was the apple tart with cider brandy cream: it’s been on the Galvins’ menu since Bistrot de Luxe opened in 2005 and it’s still one of the finest desserts in London – caramelised but not sticky, big chunks of apple with a hint of cinnamon giving it an air of a strudel, but a pumped-up version, its huge, the smell and taste is divine – It’s worth coming for this alone! The other choice was Valrhona chocolate mousse, pistacchio & almond biscuits – being Gluten Free the biscuits were swapped for sprinklings of pistachio and almond and this was a light chocolate mousse desert rather than a big apple tart! We were treated to two different dessert wines: Sylvie Chevallier Ducroco Les Brumes Monbazillac and Château Delmond Sauternes both of these wines were great matches for the desserts and had lingering sweet finishes that were suitable for our deserts.
But our afternoon didn’t end there, even though I thought I could not eat another mouthful, Toni spoiled us with Truffles! These were dark chocolate and luxurious, they melted in the mouth and gave a great end to the food experience at Galvin at The Athenaeum Hotel.
True to the Galvin’s excellent form, the wine list is a stupendous one it is finely put together. They’ve relied on familiar regions and found some excellent expressions from each and also priced them fairly. It’s a fine list that helps lift the food. A decent handful of wines can be ordered in carafes, as well as by the glass, which is a nice touch. We were served wine matches with our meal and they were all carefully chosen to reflect the flavours of the food.
Even with our venison issue this has not put us off Galvin at Athenaeum Hotel and it would definitely be a lovely place to take your mother for Mother’s day or even a catch-up with friends in London. William the Assistant Food and Beverage Services Manager told us about wine dinners they host. It would be great to attend one of these as the kitchen have to work the food around the wines chosen and from the tastes we had on a Saturday afternoon I am sure it would be pretty sensational.
A big thank you to Toni, Paulo and William who made a Saturday dining experience turn into a beautiful, leisurely afternoon in Mayfair. It’s nice to have beautiful presentation, attention to detail and see every guest treated with this same care.
Galvin At The Athenaeum
London W1J 7BJ