Located on the 28th floor of the five-star London Hilton on Park Lane, Galvin at Windows is a sky-high restaurant currently holding one Michelin star. It promises beautiful views, innovative plates, and if you’re lucky, a peek of their maítre d’, Fred; who fellow high-brow fiends might just recognise as the smooth-tongued host from the First Dates restaurant on Channel 4.
Before we ascended to the restaurant we stopped in at Trader Vic’s – on the ground floor of the hotel – for a quick cocktail before dinner. On entering the hotel’s lobby you’re immediately hit with an air of expected opulence, which makes the bar’s all-out tiki-inspired design all-the-more poignant. With a massive selection of exotic fixtures – one of which is a full-length long boat hanging from the ceiling - and a selection of more Mai Tai options than anyone thought humanly possible, it’s a quirky, non-stuffy place to start (or spend) the night. Think boozy tipples, a lot of colour, and zero fuss at this subterranean Mayfair hangout.
Naturally a restaurant of this standing doesn’t rely on Fred’s celebrity. The food is heralded as among London’s best and the views are second-to-none; and if that wasn't enough, there's the fact it was awarded its Michelin star long before their maître d’ appeared on Channel 4’s hit show.
Was I disappointed that Fred wasn’t there on the night of my visit? I was devastated. Did I forget about it almost immediately after sitting down to dinner? Okay, yes. Yes I did (forgive me, Fred). As soon as you enter the restaurant it’s easy to see why they attract so much praise. The staff are great, the style is classic-but-modern, and the ambience is buzzing; a far cry from the stuffy picture you sometimes paint when you think of an established fine-dining haunt of this calibre in London.
Bonus points; If - like me - you enjoy gloating, Galvin lay out blank postcards with pictures of their enviable views, for you to send to anyone, anywhere in the world. Which let’s face it, holds much greater, personally-directed weight than any narcissistic Instagram post could ever dream of mustering.
During our visit we tried out head Chef Joo Won’s temporary October Korean menu; which comprised seven set courses, each matched with complementary wines (£169). The big hitters on the night were the brilliantly-flavourful kimchi arancini, the raw Orkney scallops and soy bean puree, and the perfectly-balanced Iberico pork bulgogi, served with a cucumber salad and barbecued crispy squid. It’s a big menu, and somewhat of a risk for Galvin at Windows to take given their normally-classic food options, but it paid off. Each course was completely stand-out, and the wines were perfectly matched too. We opted for the slightly more expensive – but totally worth it – cocktail option on top of the wines, which included their ‘Korean Soju Sour’; using home-grown ingredients and a powerful mix of ingredients.
As you’d expect from this standard of restaurant, the food doesn’t disappoint. The team at Galvin work hard to keep their offering fresh, and their Korean menu is a great example of this. Their menus present a journey and an experience, fronting well thought-out, beautifully-presented plates, with intricate flavour combinations, and for that it should be (and is) commended.
Let’s face it, for the amount you’re paying here you expect the best. Views and great service alone do not count for much if the food isn’t something special. That however, does not present a problem for Galvin at Windows. They have retained their Michelin star for the last eight years, and it’s not going anywhere soon. Brilliant food, top-notch service and hella nice views; this is a well-deserved treat everyone should experience at least once.