owlfish: (Feast)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 04:29pm on 22/10/2014 under , ,
We celebrated Chocolate Week with [livejournal.com profile] taldragon and [livejournal.com profile] lazyknight by having dinner at one of the only restaurants in London doing anything other than afternoon tea in its honor. I had fairly high expectations of it thanks to having had a wonderfully sumptuous meal earlier in the year at its upscale sibling, Galvin La Chapelle.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe is a French-style bistrot, as promised by its name, and does indeed aim for the higher end of the spectrum with plenty of attentive and considerate staff and a generally high level of cooking. Bread and butter, plus tasty cheese puffs, arrived almost as soon as we did, an especially good move for a party including a toddler. We came in time for the Prix Fixe menu, which some of us had, with an intelligently-varied array of choices. My pork belly was fatty but tender. The steak tartare was smoothly delicate, balancing the depth of more robust sauces. Sides include creamy, rich, smooth, classic mashed potatoes; well-cooked green beans; and a good crisp salad. (But whatever I had as a starter is currently escaping me.)

The highlight were the items not on the prix fixe - the sides, the steak tartare, and the lovely varied elements in the Chocolate Week Palette du Chocolat special, from the thin, marshmallowy, barklike sheets Grouting kept wanting more of, to smooth mousse, and a tiny chocolate-covered raspberry marshmallow. To name just some of them. They also had a cocktail list themed for the week; the Chocolate Mojito was made with a pleasantly light hand, and garnished with large chunks of chocolate.

But around the edges were the odd communication gaps, which shows places where a little more attention to infrastructure would have resulted in a smoother experience. The second time I called to reconfirm my booking, I was asked for my credit card details, since we were a party larger than four; but I had *already* handed those over weeks earlier when making my initial booking. (A few minutes' digging satisfied the person at the other end of the phone; I'd apparently ended up with two profiles somehow.)

The menu offered the unexpected surprise of a complimentary main and dessert for Grouting, a wonderfully generous thing to do (and which hopefully does encourage their adult entourage to spend more overall). And indeed her food was really, really good, and arrived very promptly. But when the bill arrived, we'd been charged for both of them. ("I thought it was Friday", explained the manager, bafflingly.) I have no objection to paying for her dinner; but not if the menu promised otherwise. We were also initially charged for two desserts which should have been absorbed the prix fixe pricing, but all those bill anomalies were dealt with promptly unhesitatingly.

And then there was the moment when, after Grouting scampered up and down between crowded tables a couple of times with us chasing after her and trying to shield laden waiters from her impetuousness, the manager came over to politely warn us about the crowded aisles and the dangers to a toddler. It was the timing which left me questioning, perhaps unnecessarily, if there was meant to be a further unspoken message there; was she already too much trouble as a guest? Were we standing in the wrong place at that very moment? Did we look as if we were unware of the crowd of tables and the dangers she posed to the waitstaff? Or perhaps he meant exactly what he said he did, and there was no further unspoken message. They were, after all, extremely welcoming for a small child out on a weekend evening.

I would highly recommend the Bistrot especially for tall parents who are frustrated by how low changing facilities usually are. They not only have them (armpit-high on me), but beautifully clean high chairs and an erstwhile free meal for the under-eights. (No guarantees as to when it's for.) And the food really was pretty good overall, if clearly - based on our sampling - more worth ordering the full-priced mains than the prix fixe if what you're after are the tastiest dishes. But the prix fixe is good value, and a welcome option.

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