My old school was like no ordinary school. I mean, lessons were alright, but when it comes to what I remember most, it would have to be lunchtimes. Every day we would queue patiently outside the canteen, waiting to be fed, until we were ushered one by one to go and receive our daily sustenance. Most kids may have dreaded this part of the day, but Adrian, the "head chef", led a brigade of dedicated dinner ladies who served up some of the most delightful food to found in a Surrey prep school. In fact, he even won an award for it. Hard to believe, but he put every bit as much effort into his food as I would imagine a chef in a Michelin starred restaurant and churned out top notch traditional British favourites, in school dinner format.
Which brings me onto La Chapelle. My little meander may have seemed a little off topic, but the airy setting for the Galvin brothers latest venture just so happens to be based within an old school assembly hall. The hall has been sensibly transformed into a stunning and sophisticated space (although I am still slightly put off by the toilets being located above the kitchens!) and is patrolled by a legion of bow tied waiters. A great first impression.
On my first visit, all was going well until we began to wield our cameras (so before we had eaten anything). We were promptly informed that the restaurant operated a no camera policy, leaving me totally deflated. As a blogger, I just don't get why some establishments don't let you take pictures. After all, when you see the effort the kitchen has made into the presentation of each dish, surely they would want their hard work to be remembered? What galled me more was not the no photo policy, but the seeming arrogance of the staff. Wearing a fake cringing grin, we were regaled tales of how many critics had come to the restaurant and were able to enjoy the "exquisite food" without the need to take pictures and had given them glowing reviews. I found the fact that they were telling us how great they were before we were given a morsel to eat slightly hard to swallow, along with the attitude of the sneering waiter.
Although it took me a while to recover from such perceived arrogance, I am happy to say that the food was good. Very good actually. A starter of smoked duck & chestnut velouté was meagre but highly flavoured and led nicely onto the star of the show, a roast saddle of venison. I'm not one for conformity and stealth picced my main with my iPhone. Beautifully constructed, it had to be shared with the world. I soon tucked into the most succulent and tender pink venison which was sat on tart blueberries and sour red cabbage. Sweet chestnut puree helped balance the dish and for one split second, under the influence of such tasty meat, all was forgotten.
Unfortunately, the food alone cannot paper over the cracks. There were multiple inconsistencies with service, food being slow, clearing plates whilst other people were still eating, leaving us waiting when all we wanted to do was order. The list goes on and the management seemed a little shocked when we asked to removed the service charge (which they duly did with a little fuss, but were quite apologetic after).
They must have done something right, as I proceeded to return the week after, with my mother in tow for mothers day. Thankfully, the meal went a lot smoother, albeit with the obligatory long gaps waiting to be served. I'm not sure if they had changed their approach to cameras in the last 7 days, but I happily snapped my meal with no interruptions. We all ordered off the prix fixe (£25 for three courses) and although the food was less intricate, it was no less enjoyable. A mushroom veloute was deep and earthy whilst lifted by a spoonful of creme fraiche. My main of lamb shoulder was unbelievably tender and had a small portion of rich mash. I sense butter had a major part to play. A dessert of rhubarb crumble was satisfying although a tiny bit more sugar wouldn't have hurt.
I think it's safe to say that I really enjoy La Chapelle. The service may not deliver on all levels, but the waiters are on the whole friendly and mostly accommodating. As for the food, well, I love it here. Twice in a week says it all really and I actually look forward to my next visit. Sorry Adrian, but I think this place just pips you.
Galvin La Chapelle - 35 Spital Square, London, E1 6DY