‘Would you like to come and visit Galvin Bistrot?’ the email said. I’m not made of stone. I thought back fondly to many very pleasant evenings I’d had around 2006 and 2007, just after the Galvin brethren’s first London outpost had opened on Baker Street. It attracted rave reviews from normally sniffy critics, and it wasn’t at all hard to see why. It offered exquisite cuisine, honed from the lessons that the Galvins had learnt from their time at Orrery and The Wolseley, in an atmosphere that was nothing less than a fantasy of French brasserie chic. Wood-panelled walls, delectable food and stunning wine; what more could you possibly ask for?
2017 has dawned, and the news is bad. We have Brexit. We have a government that seems designed to send at least half of the endlessly friendly waiting staff back home. We have prices that are now, if not ludicrous, at least wincingly reflecting their West End setting; thank God, then, for the set menu, which, at £15.50 for three courses, represents probably the best value in town.
The cooking here is seriously good. It might be because the Galvins host two Michelin-starred outposts – at Windows (enter Monsieur Fred Sireieix, who has managed to become the most famous maitre’d in the country) and at La Chapelle in the City. It might also be because the front of house team, run by the indefatigable Tina, know their business like few other operations in London. You are going to have a good meal here.
In a sense, listing the courses is redundant. You have the crab lasagne here, because that’s what you have. It’s one of the best things you’ll eat in London. It costs £14.50. It’s less than three months subscription to Netflix. It will offer you infinitely more pleasure. If you have the salmon to start, then you’re not having the lasagne, so you’re missing out, but it’s exquisite nonetheless.
Main courses offer treats and goodies aplenty. There’s a côte de boeuf. It’s great. But everything else you’ll have is great as well. Because it’s a restaurant that sets incredibly high store by keeping the quality consistent, and it succeeds. The wine’s excellent, too. The Galvin own brand Bourgogne Chardonnay is something that Robert Parker would genuflect at. And it’s – praise be! – affordable.
It’s not somewhere to go if you expect either haute cuisine or street food. It’s not about that. What you’re going to have at Galvin Bistrot is superb French cuisine, albeit with an Anglo twist. And you will have a wonderful, wonderful time doing so. Its longevity, in a city that forgets names very quickly, this one looks as if it’s going to be remembered for a very long time.
Galvin’s Bistrot de Luxe, 66 Baker Street London. To make a booking, or for more information, including details of other restaurants in the Galvin collection both in the UK and abroad, visit www.galvinrestaurants.com.