Perched on the 28th floor of the Hilton Park Lane, this Galvin brothers restaurant can seat 120 diners at any one time. Naturally enough it has fine views across the capital, and the carpeted room and well-spaced tables with white tablecloths keep noise levels to a pleasant buzz. This is a nice change from so many London restaurants these days, where wood floors, hard surfaces and closely packed tables often result in diners being deafened.
Korean head chef Joo Won has worked at this restaurant since 2006 and was previously sous chef here, becoming head chef in 2013. Having originally studied industrial engineering, he left Korea in 2000 and switched to hospitality management, starting his culinary at The Orrery before moving here. The food style is firmly in French classical territory. Three courses were priced at £70, side dishes extra at £6 each, and there was a tasting menu available for £99. There is a set lunch priced currently at £30.
As one might expect in a Park Lane hotel, this is not the place to splurge on your wine selection unless money is no object. Riesling Donnhoff 2013 was a fair £43 for a wine that can be found in the high street for £16, but that was a rare relative bargain on a list where the mark-ups are generally stiff. Underraga Terror Hunter Pinot Noir 2012 was a chunky £55 for a wine that retails at £13 and De Trafford Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 was £90 compared to a shop price of £24. Mark-up are no kinder higher up the list – Calon Segur 2006 was £270 compared to a retail price of £55, and Mouton Mothschild 1998 was £1,500 for a wine that has a current market price of £349.
Bread was bought in from Boulangerie de Paris, one of the best suppliers in London, and the two different selections that we tried were fine (14/20). White garlic veloute was an amuse-bouche, with a seared langoustine coated with chicken skin and confit egg yolk served alongside. The soup had plenty of flavour and was well seasoned, and the langoustine was tender (15/20).
A trio of seared Scottish scallops rested on a bed of white onion puree and sea vegetables and a shellfish bisque. The shellfish were sweet and tender, the bisque with good depth of flavour, the earthiness of the onion a nice contrast to the scallops (15/20).
Soft boiled hen’s egg came with onion bhajis, curried cauliflower puree and spinach emulsion. This was an interesting idea, mixing in some familiar Indian elements with the egg and spinach. The curry flavour was quite subdued, and although the dish was pleasant a little more spicy kick would have been good: if a French dish is going to dabble with spices, it shouldn’t be too tentative (14/20).
Fillet of line-caught sea bass had a herb crust, fennel puree and came with scallops and pieces of fennel. The fish had good flavour and was precisely cooked, and the fennel worked well (15/20). Iberico pork cutlet came with cumin and carrot puree, crispy pig’s head and jus diable. The pork was of good quality and cooked lightly, and I really liked the hint of spice (15/20).
Rum baba is tricky to get right, as I can testify from trying to make it at home; it very easily dries out. The version here was as moist as one would wish, topped with golden raisins and served with crème Fontainbleu (a mix of cow milk cheese and whipped cream). This was a simple but lovely dessert (16/20). Chocolate mousse was made using Guanaja chocolate, served with blood orange curd and passion fruit sorbet. The mousse was velvety and the sorbet had excellent flavour and texture (16/20). Coffee (£4.95 including petit fours) was from a company called Carnival and was fine.
The bill came to £116 a head. If you shared (or indeed could find) a bottle of modestly priced wine with your three courses and coffee then a typical cost per person would be around £110. Service was genuinely excellent, with perfect topping up and attentive, friendly staff. Given its striking location, Galvin at Windows could so easily be a lazy restaurant aimed at rich tourists. That it is far from that is a tribute to the professionalism and commitment of the staff that work there. The wine list is excessively expensive but this is after all a room with a view on Park Lane, and the food itself is very capable.