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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
News
i100
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
In other news ... Jon Snow performed at last year's Newsroom's Got Talent charity event
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
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

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?