While the Galvin Brothers are perhaps better known for their more upscale ventures – in particular, the Michelin-starred joys of Galvin at Windows – there’s a simple philosophy behind everything that they do: serve lovely food, via lovely people, in lovely surroundings. And, while the interior of Galvin HOP, the brothers first take on a City pub, isn’t – obviously – as enticing as Windows or the neighbouring La Chapelle, the rest of that checklist is here in spades. Seriously, click on the link, read the full menu and find the dish you don’t want to eat. I’ll wait.
See what I mean? This is what gastropubs should be, with equal emphasis on both words. The bar area is buzzy and constantly busy, with tables spilling outside onto Spital Square and decorated with tanks of “brewery fresh” Pilsner Urquell, a beer that’ll keep you happy whether you’re usually an ale or lager drinker. The “dining room” – the space between the bar and La Chapelle – is equally lively, mostly caused by the positive noises emanating after each mouthful.
It’s not that everything here is the best it can be. You will, I’m sure, find better steak at Goodman, and better fish at Milos, but you’ll pay for them. At Galvin HOP, you’ll get three thoroughly decent, really tasty, very generous courses and a couple of drinks, and get change from £50 a head. For the quality, and the location, that’s borderline miracle.
First up, the Korean chicken thighs, from a recipe by Galvin at Windows’ chef Joo Won. HOP has a daily special – Mondays curry, Tuesday pizza, Friday fish and chips – and on Wednesdays it’s sticky, spicy, succulent thigh meat that pops off the bone. They’re great, and keep us going while we attempt to whittle the menu down to one choice per course.
Across the table, the Korean theme is going strong, this time via the spicy sauce that accompanies a generous portion of deep (and perfectly) fried oysters. I plump – in, probably, all senses of the word – for the Galvin HOP Pork Pie, a plate sized slice of moist meat and rich pastry, cut through by the crunch, mustard kick and pleasing acidity of the house piccalilli. Both are, well, thoroughly decent and really tasty.
The same applies to the dry-aged Dingley Dell pork cutlet, spiced lentils, cider sauce and pork scratching, and my bavette of Cumbrian beef, onion rings and Portobello mushroom. There’s nothing spectacular here, no rocket science at play, just hearty plates of perfectly cooked great ingredients. It’s big but not clever – and that’s really not a complaint.
If I have a gripe, I’d say the buttermilk pannacotta with passion fruit was sweet but bland, and more palate cleanser than dessert. I’m guessing there were no such complaints over the table though as the pear, almond and orange tart with clotted cream was pretty much inhaled. But one slightly off note does not a disaster make. Galvin HOP might not be pushing boundaries but, overall, it’s a little cracker, a crowd pleaser that hasn’t sunk to lowest common denominators. Lovely food, lovely staff, lovely atmosphere. Job done, Galvins. Job done.
35 Spital Square (entrance on Bishops Square)