Features

Restaurant revival

1 Oct 2006 by business traveller

Galvin at Windows

28th floor, London Hilton Park Lane, 22 Park Lane tel +44 (0)20 7208 4021

Galvin at Windows undoubtedly has the best view of any London hotel restaurant, and possibly any restaurant, in London. A firm favourite with business visitors to London, the London Hilton Park Lane is constantly updating its bars and restaurants, and following on from the recently refurbished Club Lounge and Pommery champagne bar just off the lobby, this renovation of the 28th floor Windows on the World restaurant is long overdue.

The design, by Keith Hobbs (also responsible for The Clarence Hotel in Dublin and Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos) has apparently taken its inspiration from Federico Fellini. It is a difficult tightrope to walk, providing something interesting (we all need our restaurants designed these days) while not competing with the views and the huge expanses of sky outside the windows. I noticed large lamps aimed at the ceiling, making me think the location was being used for a photo shoot, and a muted colour scheme of olive-green, cream, chocolate-brown and black. We were there for lunch, so perhaps in the evening – certainly in winter – the design might have been more memorable. Besides, there's no doubt that when it comes to this monolith of a building, it is infinitely preferable to look out of the Hilton than to look at it.

The executive chef is Chris Galvin, formerly of the Ritz and the Orrery (where he won a Michelin star), The Wolseley and Galvin Bistrot de Luxe in Baker Street. Head chef is Andre Garrett. The set lunch menu changes daily with a choice of three starters, three mains and one dessert. A starter bisque of native lobster, spring vegetables and cognac was delicious and very filling, while a main course of Anjou pigeon was full of flavour, but not much meat, which was exactly what I needed with a busy afternoon ahead. The service is discreet, the wine list extensive, and in many ways it's a shame about the views, because it's very difficult to concentrate on the food while you are identifying the various landmarks, though it does provide plenty of inspiration if conversation flags. As a place to meet, it ticks every box, and although in my memory the lifts had previously seemed slow in taking us up to the bar and restaurant, they seem much quicker today, again, perhaps because it was lunchtime. All in all, a very welcome addition to the restaurant scene.

PRICE Three-course set lunch menu is £28. For dinner, six courses with wine costs £95; à la carte costs £50-£55 per person.

OPENING HOURS Lunch Sun-Fri (closed Sat) 12-2.30pm; dinner Mon-Thurs 6-10.30pm, Fri and Sat 6-11pm, closed Sunday.

La Noisette

La Noisette, 164 Sloane Street, SW1X 9QB, tel +44 (0)20 7750 5000

The top floor of the London Hilton Park Lane might have a slightly infamous history of one sort, but La Noisette is probably one that any but the most confident of chefs would avoid. In recent years it has seen two restaurants – Montes and Pengelleys – come and go. As a space, it has advantages – it is halfway down Sloane Street, there are lots of wealthy residents and it has an arrangement with the excellent Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel next door so that guests can simply sign their bill to their room. On the downside, it's on the second floor so you have to seek it out, and it's in a part of town where there is no shortage of good restaurants.

La Noisette deserves to succeed, however, and not just by virtue of relying on hotel guests. Firstly, that problematical space is more anonymous than anything else, though paintings by Polish artist Lydia Bauman of Mediterranean landscapes are pleasantly diverting. Other than that, the browns and wood at least echo the "nut" theme.

Then there's the food, which is excellent. Mediterranean cuisine is too general a phrase to mean anything – but an opening statement of herbed labneh (a Middle Eastern yoghurt dip) and olives set the theme, as did an amuse bouche of artichoke velouté and a tiny ice-cream cone filled with tomato fondant, tomato granita and a tomato foam.

The chef is Bjorn van der Horst who has spent time in New York as head chef at Picholine on Manhattan's Upper West Side, before opening Marlon Abela's first restaurant in the US, Gaia. In London he is known for the Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair. Here, the lunch menu is good value, with a daily changing choice of two courses for starter and main, though having a choice of two for the third course with one a Lavender parfait white peach sorbet and slapping an £8 supplement on the other (for the selection of cheeses) is a little cheeky. The main courses are almost worth the total charge, however, with choices including roast guinea fowl pumpkin agnolotti (stuffed pasta), Swiss chard and goats' cheese and pan seared monkfish tail potato gnocchi and rosemary.

The inventiveness also shines through with the various choice on the Summer Favourites menu we were offered and the six-course tasting menu for £55. You can download the full wine list from the website, something I think it is an excellent innovation for those with an interest in wine.

PRICE Three-course set lunch menu costs £21. Three-course dinner is £45.

OPENING HOURS Lunch Sun-Fri (closed Sat) 12-2.30pm; dinner Mon-Thurs 6-10.30pm, Fri and Sat 6-11pm, closed Sunday.

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