Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, London W1

The French fare at Galvin is excellent, as you'd expect. For this no ordinary bistro, it's a bistro de luxe. Maybe someone should remind the waiters

Some of the great partnerships of all time have been forged by siblings. Consider the contribution of the Wright brothers, the Marx brothers, the Ringling brothers, the Brothers Grimm, the Everly Brothers, the Waugh brothers, and - stretching the point, maybe - the Kray brothers.

Now the brothers Galvin follow in the footsteps of the brothers Roux to make their mark on London dining. The new Galvin Bistrot de Luxe is one of the three most anticipated restaurant openings of the year, along with Nigel Platts-Martin's The Ledbury and Gordon Ramsay's Maze. Chris Galvin, as any serial London diner will know, was the force behind the Michelin-starred Orrery restaurant and executive chef of The Wolseley. Jeff Galvin, although not quite as high profile, also files a killer CV, and has spent the last six years at L'Escargot.

The brothers have opened on the Baker Street site of Anda, an Italian trattoria de luxe that not even restaurant-savant Alan Yau could make successful.

Gone is the whitewash, the stucco, and the communal benches, magically replaced with a handsome, long, lean, space panelled in dark wood and lined with leather banquettes, with globe lights, subtle and discreet framed images of vegetables, and even that classic symbol of the bistro, a vintage duck press. The "de luxe" appellation is vindicated by a fully kitted maître d' on the floor rather than maman, double cloths instead of paper on the tables, flash blue water glasses, and a dedicated, long-apronned sommelier clutching a reserve wine list that spirals up to a 1982 Pichon-Lalande for £365.

The menu, too, is de luxe, falling somewhere midway between Le Petit Max and Gordon Ramsay. So there are staples such as entrecote bearnaise with pommes frites, and duck leg confit with Puy lentils among more look-at-me dishes such as pithivier of wood pigeon and chestnut and a delicate lasagne of Dorset crab. The big surprise is the pricing, with starters averaging £8 and main courses peaking at £16.50.

The crab lasagne is one of the more expensive "entrées", priced at £9.75, a luxurious little dome of very fine, handmade pasta interleaved with crab and sauced with a light veloute. The crab and the pasta literally lose themselves in one another, flavours are delicate and melting, textures are satin and silk, and the last forkful is fought over.

A platter of charcuterie maison (£7) pales by comparison. The word "maison" suggests something made in-house, but apart from a small plop of pork rillettes, the rest is merely sliced in-house, being a variety of sliced meats nobody can identify. One is jambon de Bayonne (or Parma ham, according to the waiter) and the others are various saucissons sec. It's fine, but it's just a cold meat platter. The kitchen's skills are obviously expended elsewhere, possibly on the crab lasagne.

From the start, I have been fighting to get a menu, a drink, water; things that most bistros have on the table within three minutes. Self-conscious and self-important staff members seem to be afflicted with memory loss, until the benign sommelier calms my nerves by remembering my order of a light, easy-going 2003 Les Baronnes Sancerre Rouge from Henri Bourgeois (£37).

Poulet des Landes roti, forestiere (£13.95) is a fine roasted and rested chicken breast, served with tiny golden girolles, a light jus and a single roasted, turned potato. It's a simple, pleasant dish. Another main course of sea trout wrapped in Bayonne ham (£12.75) is all very Sunday-night tea, casually over-cooked and tossed on a smear of piperade, the Basquaise stew of sweet red peppers and tomatoes.

The meal finishes on a high with a simple dessert of oozy rice pudding with roasted fig in Banyuls wine (£5.50), a clever combination of the homely, the seasonal, the compatible and the chic.

A second visit has me swearing at the waitstaff again, but enjoying a tender rabbit pot au feu, its liver and kidneys served up in a big rav on top. Overall, the cooking is rich in oils and butters and low on vegetables and greens - they could at least throw in a small green leaf salad before we all die of scurvy.

The place has what it takes to be a very good restaurant with its pleasing room, excellent produce, and highly proficient kitchen. It will be immensely popular with the locals, as well as the well-dressed forty- and fifty-something Galvin boys' fan base that's in tonight.

Most importantly, the value is hard to beat, especially for the three-course lunch at £15.50 and dinner at £17.50 (before 7pm), and the middle-of-the-road prices almost - but not quite - allow you to overlook the overly mannered, unenjoyable service. For me, Galvin would be a lot more fun if it were a little more bistro and a little less de luxe.

14 Galvin Bistrot de Luxe 66 Baker Street, London W1, tel: 020 7935 4007. Lunch and dinner served daily. Around £90 for two, including wine and service.

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

Second helpings: More French bistros with British chefs

Almeida 30 Almeida Street, London N1, tel: 020 7354 4777 Across the road from the iconic Islington theatre of the same name, Almeida is a Francophile's dream come true. The room is full of Conran's easy living chic, and chef Ian Wood's cooking is the real bistro deal. That means frogs' legs, snails, onion soup, duck confit, coq au vin, and trolleys full of fine charcuterie and fruit tarts.

Ma Cuisine 6 Whitton Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, tel: 020 8607 984 John McClements first made his name a couple of doors up with the fine-dining feel and adventurous modern cooking of McClements. Here, things are kept far more cosy, with the emphasis firmly on good old bistro classics. Locals can't get enough of the cassoulet, blanquette of rabbit, salade Niçoise and crème brûlée.

Le Vacherin 76-77 South Parade, London W4, tel: 020 8742 2121 Malcolm John is well-versed in the repertoire of French cooking, having cooked with Herbert Berger at Café Royal, and at St Quentin. In this popular Chiswick bistro, his love of regional cooking shines in a menu that includes entrecotes and frites, cassoulet and braised ox cheek. The star of the show is the mighty Vacherin, now thankfully back in season.

Email Terry Durack about where you've eaten lately at t.durack@independent.co.uk

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