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Menuwatch – Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, London

18 October 2013 by
Menuwatch – Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, London

The unapologetically classic French menu, along with impeccable sourcing and a hint of luxury, is what gives the Galvin brothers' first restaurant such an enduring appeal. Janie Manzoori-Stamford reports

They are widely regarded not only as two of the hardest working chefs in the UK, but also as two of the nicest, and it is through conscientious succession planning and team development that they have been able to expand as such.

That's also the reason that Chris Galvin has been able to return to Bistrot de Luxe - his "spiritual home" - full-time for the foreseeable future. "Everything has sort of settled down, and I asked Jeff what he thought and he said, 'I think that's enough now'," explains Galvin. "So we decided to polish what we've got and look after it."

Driven by the seasonal produce that middle Galvin brother David sources on his daily market run, the menu at Bistrot de Luxe is, as you would expect, classically French with the odd Italian influence popping up here and there.

This is particularly apparent in one of the restaurant's signature dishes - a starter of lasagne of Dorset crab (£14) - that causes outcry from the diners on the odd occasion it's taken off the menu.

Comprising three very thin layers of pasta and two layers of crab and scallop mousse with lots 
of white crab folded in, the 
lasagne is steamed for five minutes before being served with a beurre Nantaise that is rich with
a Muscadet reduction, shallots and unsalted butter, and finished with chives.

Another regular dish on the menu is a tagine of Herdwick lamb, couscous and rose harissa (£22.50). "We cook that very slowly with spices, some cinnamon, cumin and star anise," says Galvin. "It's a really long job, which the others can get bored with, but 
I never tire of braising things."

But it's not just firm favourites that Galvin serves up at Bistrot de Luxe, which enjoys a daily average of 90 for lunch and 130 for dinner. David Galvin's market run often sees him bring back ingredients that he thinks will be of interest to the kitchen brigade (led by head chef Kevin Tew), who are actively encouraged to experiment, and Galvin's own travels often offer rich inspiration for dishes.

"I love cooking fish. We've a roast monkfish tail with a lovely puy lentil stew made with smoked Alsace bacon and braised lettuce (£21.50)", he explains. "I've just been on holiday to Majorca and
I was inspired by my daily trips to the open markets."

The restaurant's prix fixe menu (£19.50/£21.50 for three courses at lunch/dinner) changes weekly, but can often include dishes from the Á la carte, such as a velouté of Potimarron squash - "a lovely dry, but flavoursome squash" - with cèpes and chestnuts.

The wine list, unsurprisingly dominated by French varieties with a select few bins from the rest of Europe and the New World, is compiled by Robert Tozser in collaboration with the group sommelier for Galvin Restaurants. Quality is obviously crucial, but Bistrot de Luxe strives to offer the same value in its wine list as 
it does in its food. "We work on a pared-back margin here, so our sommeliers have to work quite hard," says Galvin. "Everything has to be tasted, tasted, tasted until they are sure."

That effort makes life easier for the diner, who is presented with suggested pairings, and this has proved particularly popular with the time-poor lunchtime crowds, who sit alongside a broad mix of 
destination diners, business lunchers and foodies.

Galvin says: "We don't have a young funky crowd, which would be lovely, but you have to accept that there's a certain thing that those people really like. I like to describe us as a pair of brogues. We're not in fashion, but we're never out."

It's certainly a winning formula. Bistrot de Luxe remains a firm favourite for many after eight years, and its timeless classic appeal shows no sign of waning.

Sample dishes from the menu

Starters
Steak tartare, toasted sourdough £9.50
Salade gourmande of smoked duck, gésiers and artichokes £10.50
Terrine of wild boar, compote of figs £11.75

Main courses Tranche of seabass with salsify and trompette mushrooms £28
Seared calves' liver, roscoff onions and pommes galette £19.50
Daube of Denham Estate venison, poached quince, mushroom £18.50

Desserts
Nougat parfait, autumn berries £8.50
Leafy lemon tart £7.50
Roast black figs with buttermilk and honeycomb £7

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe
66 Baker Street
London, W1U 7DJ
020 7935 4007
www.galvinrestaurants.com

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