Having been welcomed warmly by the traditionally British Footman and reception staff (including the dog!) at the Athenaeum hotel, we were directed toward the restaurant area and awaited to be seated. The restaurant was busy and the ambience was relaxed.
Being seated, we had a bit of time to appreciate the surroundings prior to drinks being ordered. The mixture of booth areas, twin tables and large circular tables, all in different yet classic styles, perfectly complemented each other. The atmosphere was informal and not stuffy and it was welcome to see an eclectic mix of people dining – from suited business people to retired couples and a couple of families. I felt quite at home.
After a few minutes, the head waitress came over to check all was well and advise on the drinks and food menu. Friendly yet professional, we have fully informed of the evening menu as well as the individual ingredients of each dish. Upon questioning her accent, I was delighted to hear that the waitress grew up in Bethnal Green (born within the sound of the bow bells – proper cockney!), the same as my wife. After a brief chat, we were quickly and succinctly bought back to the task in hand – dinner.
I opted for the Belgian endive, walnut and Roquefort salad to start. Expecting a bowl of salad, I was almost disappointed to be presented with a few hors d’oeuvre bite-size baby gem lettuce filled morsels. That was until I took the first bite: Popcorn, honey roast flavour, the almost naughtiness of the sweet caramel crunch of the walnut and the freshness of the leaf kind of make you feel like you’re eating a guilt-free snack. Texture and flavour all in one bite. The simple beauty of the presentation in no way reflected the eating experience which was clean, fresh and was ideal in preparing me for the next course.
My compatriot went for crab lasagna which had a lovely creamy flavour and looked amazing.
This 2013 tasty dark purplish red wine comes from the Quinta de la Rosa vineyard in the Duoro region in Portugal. This wine has a blend of four grapes and had an aroma of cherry and cassis. I felt it was the perfect choice with the meaty dishes to come.
For my main, I went safe and had steak, medium to well done. It was smoky and had a slightly charred flavour. After my usual prodding to check for texture and blood, it was clear that the meat was obviously well-aged as the steak knife sliced through with little effort to reveal the deep pink inner. The meat had texture yet took little effort to chew. Not quite melt in your mouth, but who really wants that in a steak? As all condiments should, the sauce was subtlety flavoured yet punchy and did not take any glory from the flavour of the actual steak.
Not being a huge portion addict, I welcomed what initially I thought was a small portion of chunky chips. Having had a few mouthfuls of the steak my need for texture was realised as I crunched in to the cracker like coating of the thrice fried morsal. Wow. All that you need in a chip – crunchy and soft in the middle My dinner partner, equally impressed, helped me finish the lot. My side dish order was the sauted spinach.
For my dessert, I had the blood orange Cheesecake. It was presented in the centre of the serving plate with little dressing. Upon the first bite, I realised why. Crunchy, almost caramel crisp bottom, the soft cheese needed little attention as it melted in the mouth and the sharp, yet warming citrus gelatine top rounded off the taste experience. No need to dress this one up.
My dinner partner opted for the chocolate mousse. The presentation and taste again were excellent.
There is no doubt that you are eating top-notch tucker in a high-end establishment. Aside from the great food, I was most impressed by the relaxed, informal feeling within the restaurant as well as the professional, courteous, friendly manner in which the waiting staff dealt with us. This place is a real British classic.
- Price Dinner for two: £150
- Website: www.athenaeumhotel.com/restaurant-bar/galvin-at-the-athenaeum/
- Address: 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ
- Phone: +44 (0)20 7640 3333
This review was made possible with the help of Visit London – the official London travel guide.