Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, London E1

Chris and Jeff Galvin are shaping up to be Britain's most successful restaurant-owning brothers since Albert and Michel Roux. Unlike the Roux brothers, the Galvins specialise in fine cooking, rather than fine-dining, and they are English, not French – not that you would ever guess it from their food; an evolved, contemporary take on classic cuisine bourgeoise.

The Galvins' first joint venture, after successful solo careers in some of London's finest kitchens, was Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, an instant hit when it opened on Baker Street in 2005. Soon after, they went vertiginously upmarket, with Galvin at Windows, where the combination of Chris's cooking and the spectacular views from the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton almost made up for the sheer barking weirdness of the place.

Now the brothers, with other family members, have opened Galvin La Chapelle, their most ambitious venture to date; a true destination restaurant which replicates the bustling congeniality of Bistrot de Luxe in a setting with all the wow factor of Windows.

La Chapelle is one of the few truly fabulous-looking restaurants in London. Apart from the Wolseley, it's hard to think of many dining rooms to rival this dazzling conversion of a Victorian school chapel, tucked between the towers of Broadgate and the redeveloped Spitalfields Market.

Unlike most City restaurants, which have a slightly muted and apologetic atmosphere on a Saturday night, La Chapelle crackles with excitement and discreet glamour. We arrive in a rain-soaked huddle. A bowler-hatted doorman whisks us into the arms of a flurry of formal, black-clad staff. And suddenly we're standing, coatless and agog, in a fantasy restaurant, the kind of place that you usually only see in movies.

The huge Grade II-listed St Botolph's Hall has been gutted. Its raw brick walls soar up to a distant ceiling, crosshatched with a tracery of joisting. Side areas, shadowy behind marble pillars and swaggering velvet drapes, open out from the central, brasserie-style dining area, which has a similar feel to the Bistrot de Luxe, with glass partitions, crisp napery and button-backed leather chairs.

My designer friend immediately identified the look of the place as "very Keith McNally", referring to the king of downtown New York dining. And there is definitely a downtown feel to the conversion, thanks to a half-mezzanine floor newly suspended overhead, adding an urban glass-and-steel edge to the cathedral-like setting.

Regulars at Baker Street will recognise some old friends on the menu; in fact, I belatedly recognised my starter as the same I'd ordered when I reviewed the Bistrot in 2005, a lasagne layering discs of wobbly pasta with white crab meat, lapped with a musky foamed sauce and topped with chanterelles.

Other starters included a (rather meagre) assembly of roasted autumn vegetables with walnuts and goat's cheese, and a salad which paired gamey slices of red-leg partridge with pomegranate in a maple-syrup dressing which stopped just shy of over-sweetness.

City trenchermen are well catered for with mains like braised veal cheek, served with pommes purée. On the lighter side, grilled fillet of sea bass, served with herb fritters, and supreme of Landaise chicken, poached then pan-fried, were both well-made, if unsensational. The most exciting dish of the night was the one that strayed furthest from the traditional French repertoire, a Moroccan-inspired pairing of squab pigeon and couscous, served in a tagine, with a jug of fiery harissa.

We were back in heartland France for the desserts; I felt like the lady in the Cointreau ad when our French waiter murmured me through my prune and Armagnac parfait, served with prunes that 'ave been soaked in Armagnac for sree merrnts. It came cheffily adorned with an aerial-shaped brandy snap, leading to speculation from the men that we might be able to pick up Sky Sports on it. More simply presented, but no less terrific, were a buttery pear tarte tatin and rhum baba, served with crème Chantilly and anointed with rum at the table.

Service is not quite flawless – we waited for too long to order our drinks, and there's a tendency to over-fill glasses, leading us to order more than we'd intended from a list full of interesting wines. Before wine and service, we paid around £45 a head, which won't deter the expense-accounted business diners who will make up the bulk of the clientele during the week. On a Saturday night, the crowd was much more mixed and fun than the City norm, and there's also the option of eating at the more casual (and cheaper) Café de Luxe which shares the building.

Usually I leave this kind of high-end restaurant knowing with a hard certainty I will never go back. La Chapelle, like the Bistrot de Luxe, is a restaurant I know I will happily return to. It's a place to celebrate a special occasion, and a place that would make any occasion special.

Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, London E1 (020-7299 0400)

Food 4 stars
Ambience 5 stars
Service 4 stars

Around £45 a head before wine and service

Tipping policy: “Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff”

Side Orders: French lessons


Marc Wilkinson's Michelin-starred restaurant serves inventive French cuisine which challenges the tastebuds.

11 Rose Mount, Oxton, Wirral (0151 652 2914)

Maison Bleue

This seafood restaurant serves super-fresh fruits de mer or mains like gilt-head bream with brown shrimps.

30-31 Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds (01284 760623)

The French Table

Eric and Sarah Guignard's restaurant specialises in French-Mediterranean cuisine; try the seabass with a lobster beignet.

85 Maple Road, Surbiton (020-8399 2365)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions