Galvin at the Athenauem opened in Piccadilly’s Athenaeum Hotel and Residences in June, part of a revamp of the five-star property’s public spaces. It’s the first time chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin – who count the Michelin-starred La Chapelle and the Hilton London on Park Lane’s Galvin at Windows among their venues in the capital – have taken on a hotel’s entire food and drink offering, from the restaurant and bar to the room service.
Housed in the former Garden Room, the bar is accessed via a separate entrance on Down Street. A long room with views to the hotel’s exterior “living wall” of greenery, the interiors are classy and inviting, with a dark colour palette, oak parquet flooring, glowing whisky cabinets, and plush velvet sofas and cocktail chairs to sink into. A large flatscreen at the far end shows a Hollywood montage of leading men picking up their ladies.
The cocktail list is presented not as a traditional menu but as a set of postcards, each with an image of the drink on one side and the recipe on the other (presented in a box with a pencil, should you wish to use snail mail rather than Instagram to boast about where you are). I tried the Double Bellini (£15), which added peach foam to the usual prosecco and peach purée, and was served in a glass goblet and finished with a lavender flower. The foam gave it a smooth creaminess, although I think I prefer the sparkle of a more traditional Bellini.
The bar was busy on this Saturday evening, with a large party arriving at around the same time as us, so the complimentary bowl of nuts and rice crackers wasn’t brought to our table until after we had finished our drinks – probably for the best given what was to come.
The restaurant is located off the new-look double-height lobby, which is less a traditional hotel lobby and more a lounge with attractive seating for lingering over a coffee. We walked through from the bar and were guided to our booth. Seating 94 guests, it’s a relaxed, comfortable space with an elaborate central chandelier, brown velvet banquettes, dark wood tables and a display of olives, condiments and Galvin cookbooks.
Here the brothers have departed slightly from the French cuisine they are best known for, offering British fare alongside some of their classic dishes. The menu was fairly wide so I took the recommendations of our waitress, starting with the lasagne of Dorset crab with Nantais butter sauce (£14.50), a Galvin signature dish. It was gorgeous – light yet with a beautiful depth of flavour, it looked almost like a mini soufflé, the sweet crab, scallop mousse and dainty slivers of pasta coated in the rich sauce, which I mopped up with the bread served earlier.
My companion took another recommendation, the Belgian endive, walnut and Roquefort salad (£8), which was also lovely, the generous, creamy nuggets of cheese well complemented by the sweet candied walnuts.
For my main I had the “Jubilee” lamb curry, mango chutney, raita and basmati rice (£18.50), which was served to the Queen as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The spicing was delicately balanced with a warming kick, giving great flavour to the tender, slow-cooked chunks of lamb neck.
My companion was similarly impressed with his Galvin Burger Deluxe (£14.50), which was perfectly cooked medium, and accompanied by a side of crisp, floury chips with spiced mayonnaise (£4). The recommended Galvin Rasteau, Domaine André Romero, Rhône, 2013 (£10 by the glass, £39.50 by the bottle) was an enjoyable accompaniment to both dishes.
There wasn’t really room for dessert, but we had it anyway. The sticky toffee pudding with Cornish clotted cream (£8) was just as you would hope it to be, while the tart tanginess of the organic lemon cheesecake with lime sorbet (£7.50) was a good palate cleanser.
Excellent. Our waitress had previously worked at La Chapelle and her high-end experience really showed – she was knowledgeable, friendly and attentive, yet unobtrusively so. Her recommendations were spot on, and she kindly brought out a sample of the suggested wine so we could try it first. The team worked well together, often bringing out dishes in pairs so they could be unveiled and explained seamlessly.
A very impressive addition to the Galvins’ fast-expanding stable of restaurants. High-end comfort cooking in a relaxed environment with warm, accomplished service – the redesigned bar looks great, too.
Restaurant open for breakfast 7am-11am; all-day dining 12pm-11pm; lunch 12pm-2.30pm; afternoon tea 12.30pm-4.30pm; dinner 6pm-10.30pm. Bar open 11am-1am.
Starters £7-£21.50; mains £14.50-£27.50; sides £4; desserts £5-£12.50. Set three-course lunch and pre-theatre menu £29.50. Wine from £4.80 by the glass; from £26.50 by the bottle; several 500ml options also available, from £19.25.
Galvin at the Athenaeum; 116 Piccadilly; tel +44 (0)20 7499 3464; athenaeumhotel.com