We’ve been on a roll recently with 50 Days, then Bob Bob and lastly PSS. Well with this being Shaf’s choice anything was possible!
La Chapelle is a French Michelin starred offering from the Galvin Brothers and so expectations were high once more. Having had a wonderful experience a few months ago at ‘Chez Bruce’, the French benchmark was set!
Once inside the grand entrance we were met by two poker players. Sorry ‘professional’ looking hostesses. No small talk here! and led straight to our table. The place was packed, and needed to be as the building was a huge, beautiful old church-like school which must be almost eerie when serving fewer covers? Wonderful high ceilings, grand candelabras, and a glass mezzanine floor for further seating. (Up there next time please). The stage was set.
I know where we were! Hogwarts! As no sooner had we sat down but Harry Potter himself came to offer us water! (Apologies but I couldn’t resist!) However that was as close as we were going to get to magic, as from then on the dark side must have taken over.
I occasionally read other ‘more professional’ reviews and wonder if we went to the same establishment. Several writers rave about La Chapelle, let’s be honest if a food critique from the Times has his PA ring to book a table then of course everything will will be ready, prepared and I’d expect Dumbledoor himself to make an appearance. Let’s not forget also that id imagine the critique’s bill would be taken care off too. ‘Another bottle of Soldera Brunello please.’ Not to mention that the Galvin Boys will be probably invited to his upcoming 60th birthday bash too. ‘Let’s keep them sweet’. Well maybe I’m being unfair but let’s have less bias, more facts.
Firstly it took 15-20 minutes, plus a reminder, from ordering cocktails to receiving cocktails. Yes the list and variety were novel and interesting but ‘get me my drink Harry or do I have to get Ron on the case?’
Secondly we received during this wait some hard butter – don’t get me started here as serving hard butter is a cardinal sin. Yes the butter. Hard butter. Oh have we forgotten something? Another 10 minutes pass before we get bread, a poor selection, to accompany the HARD now stale butter. Seriously I bet they had Hermione herself baking it fresh for the Food Critique. And knowing he was sitting there then no waiting around. For us normal foodies I’m sorry but compared to other places we’ve been to this was a poor and disappointing start. And before anyone says ‘they were busy’. Well everyone books in advance and it doesn’t take a CERN scientist to realise that you may need more staff.
Having discussed the wines with the friendly sommelier we made the point that we needed them faster. The wine list I thought was very good. Wide variety of prices so as not to bankrupt anyone, but also a bottle for £19500 should that critique be able to write off his bill against the newspaper without the editor realising it’s a bit high! Nice touches too with The Riedel decanters and the sommelier filtering posher bottles of red properly.
So I’ve already put ticks against the building and wine, and crosses against service, albeit they were professional but not engaging, and butter. What about the food?
We choose to have the ‘Menu Gourmand’ with the Paul Jaboulet fine wine pairing. However credit where credits due. They offered Mit a vegetarian menu and made up an impromptu fruit flight pairing. It did all look very appetising, but wanted to be for the price to be honest.
Highlight of the night again came from Bill.
“so Gally do you know how the Margarita pizza was invented?”
“Well when Queen Margherita visited Nepal.”
‘You mean Naples?’
“No I mean Nepal.”
‘You sure? Everest and all?’
“Yes Nepal!!! Anyway they were making this bread with the Italian colours.”
‘You Mean Naples!!!!’
“No! Nepal, anyway they had on it Buffalo Mozzarella for the White, tomatoes for the red. And what’s the other colour in the Italian flag?”
‘Basil for green!?’
“Oh yeah. That’s it. Maybe I did mean Naples?!”
First up was the one I was most looking forward to, Lasagne of Dorset Crab. Primarily made with scallops. Was ok. Lacked texture. We’d have liked a crunch somewhere in the layers.
Accompanied by a 2014 Crozes Hermitage Blanc “Les Jalets” – decent nothing special again.
Mit however did enjoy his English Watercress Veloute.
Not being a terrine fan I swapped for an excellent salmon dish. However the Chicken Foie Gras dish I passed up was apparently amazing with the 2014 Condrieu “Domaine des Grands Amandiers” complimenting it excellently.
Again the veggie option of Asparagus and Wild Garlic Coulis won rave reviews from my right. The fruit flight was basically Sparkling water with a couple of fruit juices but it did the job too.
Approaching halfway we received a gazpacho. Wrong order? I’d have had it earlier but I don’t have several Michelin stars.
The tomato veloute was lovely with the olive ‘component’ equally tasty. That worked. Served with a cold, yes Cold, red – 2013 Saint Joseph “Le Grand Pompee” – (Pompeii probably that ‘mountain’ in Nepal that reminded Bill of his story!). That cold red didn’t work. I don’t get cold soup let alone cold red wine. Two wrongs don’t make a right!
The Fillet of Turbot was less twin turbo more old banger. Ok a little harsh but nothing special unlike the John Dory of previous experiences. The 2011 “H” Blanc Incognito should have stayed exactly that. Hidden. Mit’s risotto however was again on point. Do the Galvins have a veggie restaurant?
Finally some meat. Tagine of Bresse Pigeon. Was gorgeous with a spectacular harissa spicy sauce. The Confit leg parcel was amazing. Definitely a signature dish with the lemon finishing it with a welcome blast. The 2007 Hermitage “La Chapelle” was equally outstanding and complimentary. A fine drop indeed.
La Briquette fleurie, lemon gel & confit fennel. A superb cheese which will have me searching for more soon! Saving the best for last here!
Completing the taster menu was an Apple Tarte Tatin & Normandy Creme Fraiche. Scrumptious.
The final wine pairings weren’t noteworthy but would anything be after the beautiful 2007 red earlier?
Not being totally full, which I perceive to mean a well constructed and portioned taster menu, we had some further cheeses, albeit I expected a grander selection with it being a distinguished French restaurant and all. No toxic goats cheese in sight. Disappointed.
Some positives. Some negatives. Certainly no ‘Chez Bruce’, a bit of a let down to be honest. And when you consider the fact that it’s towards the top end of one’s budget you feel that unless it’s the real cast of Harry Potter next time then I wouldn’t bother coming back.
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