Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, London, E1

The Galvin brothers bring French fine dining to a chapel in Spitalfields – but is it a transcendental experience?

My fellow reviewer, Toby Young, is married to a vegetarian, which is a good way to test a restaurant's range and imagination. I am married to a committed carnivore, which presents, in its way, as much of a challenge.

Take Galvin La Chapelle, the latest outpost from brothers Jeff and Chris Galvin, of Windows and Bistrot de Luxe fame. It is the turbo-charged, glossy high-end part of the operation, with its cap set at being a "destination" restaurant. And there's plenty of meat on the menu, which is why I take Mr M there for his birthday: two-month-old La Chapelle sounds like the kind of joint you can have both a three-course blow-out with a fine bottle of wine (him) and a more January-ish light selection accompanied by mineral water (me).

The challenge is that Mr M is a heartless brute. Well, that's not strictly true, but he believes meat is there to be eaten, in all its forms. So I'm expecting flak for allowing my guest to order both foie gras and veal... but it is his birthday and he's not representing The Independent on Sunday and hey, enough with the excuses. Suffice to say, for those who like sumptuously tender animal products, Mr M reports that they are both exemplary – and that's before he's too far into his celebratory wine.

He knows, before opening the hefty wine list, what he wants: Rasteau (a Côtes du Rhône personal favourite, not widely listed), and blow me down if the sommelier doesn't have it, know it and love it. They exchange doe-eyed admiration for the Domaine la Soumade 2007 vintage, a hearty red, while I sip my water and survey the room.

La Chapelle is, as its name suggests, located in an erstwhile chapel, in a small square near Liverpool Street station – a cavernous room kept pared down and almost ecclesiastical with circular wreaths of lights suspended from the high ceiling, and faux-distressed mirrors at the room's edge. An incongruous, but not unpleasing addition is a mezzanine floor, all glass and steel. It is empty tonight, which I suspect is more to do with the bitter weather than a shortage of City folk and foodie scenesters, who must be delighted by this new arrival in an otherwise unswanky bit of Spitalfields.

Back on the ground, a gaggle of waiters attend to our every need, and some we didn't know we had – two goes over the napery with a crumb-catcher, for instance. But they are well-informed and agile with the menu – I'm grasping towards a good mix of dishes and, with help, arrive at lasagne of Dorset crab with chanterelles and chervil (£11.50), followed by tagine of squab pigeon and harissa sauce (£22.50). The tagine seems a little rustic for a menu of French fine-dining classics, but the waiter and I agree that north Africa has brought much influence to the country.

The lasagne is a wobbly, gently flavoured soufflé-type affair, a light tower surrounded by an earthy, fragrant sauce. The crab is so delicate as to almost not be there, but it has what turgid food inspectors call, in their unlovely fashion, good "mouthfeel".

The tagine comes to the table in an Emile Henry tagine (the label I lust over more than any Louboutin or Chanel) and is unveiled as rather un-rustic – a neat circle of couscous, perfectly symmetrical pair of pigeon breasts, a crisp, pastry-shelled confit of the leg and (oddly), a tiny hard-boiled egg. It has shades of a culinary version of a Damien Hirst "mother and child" prank.

My waiter brandishes a tiny saucepan and pours a viscous, intensely savoury sauce over my dish. Another tiny saucepan is placed at my elbow, pulsating with freshly made harissa sauce. I'm warned to use it judiciously, so as not to nuke my tastebuds and it's a wonderful addition to the very rich, superbly tender meat and soft grains. Mercifully, the dish is less crammed with fruit than a traditional tagine and the absence of sticky prunes or apricots (just a few plump sultanas) means the complex flavours all complement each other. I adore it, and leave just the sad little egg.

Mr M has a blast from a long-off nursery past with rhum baba (bet it didn't have such a sluicing of smart liquor back then) and I go back to wobbly towers with a crème caramel of mouth-melting consistency.

We waddle back into the night – Mr M cradling the stoppered remains of his beloved Rasteau – delighted to have sated both our needs so completely. Spitalfields is never going to be my stomping ground, but if you want a near-holy experience with food, La Chapelle is recommended.

16/20

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, London E1, tel: 020 7299 0404 Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Dinner around £120 for two, including wine and service

Second helpings: More 'divine' locations

La Buvette

6 Church Walk, Richmond, tel: 020 8940 6264

Hidden away in a churchyard, this good-value bistro (sibling to St Margarets' Brula) is a solid Gallic performer with first-class service

Gaucho

2a St Mary's Street, Manchester, tel: 0161 833 4333

This stylish, lively outpost of the Argentine steakhouse chain, located in an old church by House of Fraser, rises above chain quality; not cheap, but worth it

Blackfriars Restaurant

Friars Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, tel: 0191 261 5945

Set within an 800-year-old monastery and overlooking a medieval courtyard, this city-centre rendezvous certainly boasts an historic setting; more generally, its standards are good(ish)

Sport
Romelu Lukaku
sportChelsea striker sends second teasing tweet of the day
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Sport
Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura sprays a line after calling for a free kick for Brazil
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz