Entrance on Bishops Sq, 35 Spital Square, London E1 6DY www.galvinrestaurants.com
It is traditional for Sunday roast to be taken in a pub. And it is traditional for it to be Not Very Good.
Which is why I only ever go out for a pub Sunday roast to keep rural relatives happy. The plate swimming in watery gravy, the excess of over-steamed vegetables (Cauliflower? Why?), the fatty pork, the stringy beef and the unspeakable chicken. No thanks.Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ
They do a great Sunday roast here,’ one relative will always say waving his or her knife about. What they mean is that’they’ do a large plateful, which pretty much means the same thing to some people.
Galvin HOP is not a pub, but then it’s not a restaurant per se either. It has a large bar, above which sit giant tanks of lovely unpasteurised Pilsner that gravity feed to the pumps below, the seating is simple and it has to be said a bit hard on the bum.
Unlike Galvin La Chapelle, which like Business Class on an airplane is separated from the hol poli by just a corridor with an invisible force field across it, it is averagely priced and cheerfully informal.
If you don’t want to spend the bigger bucks on La Chapelle’s Sunday lunch (which, by the way is quite superb, read here), you can save a few quid and eat almost as well in HOP. The kitchens are all under the Galvin’s rigorous quality control, so you are in no danger of being disappointed.
With seats outside on the square and plenty of space inside, it’s not hard to get some space between you and the babies. There are always babies at any Sunday lunch. I don’t mind babies, it’s small children rushing about uncontrolled I dislike.
A simple menu on Sundays, from which we ordered a French onion soup – is there any other kind of onion soup and BBQ mackerel. Plus, a large carafe of what turned out to be a very decent Grenache for £21.
The soup came, as it should, with a large crouton topped with melted Gruyere bobbing on top. This proved to be a bit of a struggle; impossible to eat in one bite but equally impossible to cut up because it simply sank under the surface when challenged.
So I lifted it onto my side plate, my knife caught my wine glass, and P suddenly got a large measure of Grenache all over her.Staff hurried to the rescue and, because she was wearing a dark shirt, P was not too upset with me. I blamed the cheese.
Crisis over, I could enjoy the soup, the onions were melted down to a viscous sweetness in a stock that was extremely rich. The secret of a good French onion soup is that long, slow sweating down of the onions and here of course it had been done just right. If you want decent French food, an English chef is often your best bet these days.
P’s fish did a lot to distract her from the wet shirt situation. Crispy skinned mackerel surrounded by a zingy salsa and with the fishiness cut with pink grapefruit and peppery nasturtium leaves. As good as anything’next door’.
The main event, the roast arrived. I’m afraid we both went for beef, the fact is we never roast beef at home as it’s best to cook a big piece and there isn’t enough of us usually to make that worthwhile.
Like I say, beef often comes up overdone, stringy, horrible. Not here, instead beautifully cooked beef, rare in the middle, singed on the outside, butter soft. Absolutely perfect.
With it came carrots that had been cooked with a spice I couldn’t name, but which was very pleasant, squeaky crisp French beans, potatoes that were crispy but a fraction oily on the inside and the only thing I didn’t like – horseradish cream.
This came as a quenelle, but soon melted and leaked cream all over the plate, plus it had hardly any horseradish in it. I like my horseradish to make me gasp out loud.
I noticed a diner on the next table lift her quenelle off to a side plate. Maybe they should rethink that part of the dish.
Mahoosive crispy Yorkshire pud, and just enough full-bodied gravy to float it on, rounded it all off nicely. Best Sunday roast for a long time.
There had to be pudding of course (you can’t call it dessert on a Sunday, I doubt if even Nigella does that) and it has to be a bit sticky. Just like Nigella.
Tarte tatin for me then, a real cosy grip of deep sweetness, with the apples soft and buttery and the pastry crisp at the edges.
P’s cheesecake was a visual treat, again very similar to the quality of next door’s desserts and sharp and refreshing too.
Sunday roast at Galvin HOP made me believe in going out for Sunday lunch again.
I won’t ever be able to escape the relatives’ version, unless they move to London, but I’ll try and take them to Galvin Hop sometime to show them what they’re missing.