July 29, 2011

Galvin at Windows

For four years now the weekend after Midsummer my wine tasting gals and I have gone to London. What started as a shopping weekend where everything including the trip and hotel stay had to be a barging has now turned into a weekend where we indulge on most everything. Hotel, food, wine and shopping. It has become an annual event we start talking about right after the holidays. Needless to say, I guess, I’m in charge of the whole planning and being in charge also means I get to decide where we do lunch.

This year I decided on Galvin at Windows which I had only heard good things about. Also the view over London from the 28th is rather hard to beat. After a morning of shopping and lots of bags showing it, we arrived to Park Lane in a taxi as one should. Just having the doorman opening the taxi door for you and great you with a “Madam” make you feel very far from the real world and special. Clearly something to remember a rainy and grey November day when your haul your shopping home and no one gives a toss about you.

After freshening up at the bathroom and leaving the bags at the cloakroom we entered the restaurant where a nice Maitre d' showed us to our table and introduced us to our waiter. I had not asked especially to be seated by the window, but we did and the view was spectacular. Our waiter was cute guy with a French accent and when he explained the menu options we very quickly decided on the 3 course set lunch including half a bottle of wine, water and coffee. The menu was quite impressive being a set menu with at least 4 different choices to choose from for each course. The wine list was also quite impressive and when I found a Reserve Chardonnay from Xanadu, Margaret River on the list I got very happy. All their wines are excellent, but hard to get in Sweden. According to the Sommelier it was an excellent choice to go with our meal, and hopefully he was just not being polite saying that…

While we were looking at the menu and wine list a wooden board arrived with two different kinds of breads still being hot. Nibbling away all of us decided to go with grilled sea bream for main course and pâté for everybody else besides me for a starter. Since there was fresh asparagus on the menu I of course had to have that instead. Unfortunately they had run out of asparagus and I was offered a green pea soup. Not being a soup person my first feeling was disappointment, but when the waiter explained how it was made and what was in it I decided to live dangerously and broaden my horizons, i.e. give it a try.

When the starters arrived the wooden broad with bread and butter was replaced with fresh and new one. A very nice gesture since we hadn’t even had half of bred on the first board. The starters arrived and my green pea soup looked spectacular with a poached egg in the middle and croutons and pancetta bits as toppings. And of course it tasted as good as it looked. The soup was very smooth and the croutons and pancetta bits added the right crunchiness to the texture. A perfect runny egg yolk also added to its greatness. From what understood from my friends the pâté was also amazing and for a while we just got quiet eating and enjoying the food.

Two bus-boys carried in the sea bream and then waited for our waiter to arrive so he could server all of us at the exact same time. The sea bream was of course perfect and served with a new potato tart with cherry tomatoes and olives in pesto sauce. Again more ah:s and oh:s from of us while we savoured the food and very much understood why Galwin at Windows has one star in the Michelin Guide.

We were sharing ice bucket with another table and in the corner of my eye I suddenly noticed how the Sommelier took our bottle and went to the other table. When he started pouring he looked at me and then it hit him what he was doing. A simple nod and he went away and came back with a new bottle to our table. Very classy and impressive, and the exact right thing to do. When one of my friends commented "I can’t believe we still have wine left" he and I just shared a secret smile.

For dessert we all decided on having the same thing again – Tonka bean panacotta with strawberries. Neither of us had heard about Tonka beans before but we were told it was an aromatic bean tasting a bit like toffee. It was a delight, tasting somewhere in-between toffee and vanilla and both the fresh strawberries and tiny cubes of strawberry jelly removed that too sweet taste you sometimes can get eating panacotta.

We had now been having lunch for two hours and there was still coffee and truffles to come. Our waiter suggested that we should move to the bar while having coffee so we could enjoy the view from another direction. With big panorama windows the view in the bar was even more spectacular than before and I was able to point out several landmarks and my London office. Our Sommelier also came around and gave us one more glass of wine.

The time was now getting close to 16:30 and the visitors in the restaurant/bar had changed over to a younger and more hip crowd. Next to us were some South Africans who added ice into their Chablis. Obviously money doesn’t always come with style… For a while we were debating if we should stay and order in some more wine, but we decided that more wine would just spoil that perfect feeling of food, wine and excellent service. Instead we took the lift down (where my ears actually popped) and took a nice stroll through Hyde Park back to the hotel.

Less than an hour later I got a message from a London friend asking if we are all right: Of course we are. What do you mean? There is a fire on Park Lane Hilton and the whole building has been evacuated - Oh My God, if we had decided to have that another bottle of wine we would have been there and would have been evacuated from the 28th floor probably walking down some spiral staircase. Something I would not like to do sober and nevertheless in high heels and tipsy after a nice long lunch. Also I’m sure there was probably smoke as well when you got down to the floors 1-4 where the fire was. So needless to say it was an afternoon we will remember for a long time. First a superb lunch and then how we just had left the hotel before a big fire broke out.

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