The Sunday Roast is an institution but it takes a French Michelin Star restaurant to really get it fabulously right.
I’m a bit of an evangelist about the importance of Sunday roast dinner to aid social cohesion and general well-being.
Galvin La Chapelle is of course a French restaurant, but the Galvin brothers are not Gallic but as British as, well as Sunday Roast. Surely, they will not produce some kind of carvery carve up?
The setting is gorgeous as ever, this is a Michelin-starred restaurant which under Jeff Galvin has consistently delivered the goods.
We’re warmly welcomed by Franco Becci, a Maitre’d gliding around on hidden castors, and staff say hello as we pass them and it seems totally unforced.
As there is a children’s Sunday menu, there are children present – small babies and toddlers.
Happy families all over the place in fact, as far as we can see. In this elegant room, usually full of well-heeled business types, this is a very pleasant change. One could almost actually be in France, because even the tiny kids are well behaved.
The Sunday menu is simple; three choices for starters and dessert, and four choices for main. P snags the starter of salt cod and lobster brandade with bisque and rouille. For me a more British choice – a terrine of Highland game with some burnt orange and granola.
There is no rush, no pressure; the dishes come out just at the right moment, that is after we have had time to talk and sip and relax.
The brandade is a beauty to look at, a big buoy in a foamy sea. The taste is salty and rich with a powerful dense bisque that speaks of shells that have been allowed to surrender their goodness slowly.
The rouille is garlicky and slightly spicy, much of the excellent sour dough bread is expended mopping this up after.
The terrine is a slice of Highland heaven; gamey yes, but not overpowering, and mixing forkfuls with the burnt orange allows the sweet acidity of the citrus to bring out more of the dense flavours.
It’s a very soft and creamy terrine, so the granola’s light crunch is welcome.
And so, to the roast. There is, of course a choice of roast beef sirloin, with all the trimmings you’d expect and desire, but P wants it and so in the interests of research I feel we can’t both have the same mains and surrender.
Pave of hake is tempting, were it not Sunday, and the vegetarian option of mushroom risotto is not for me, not today. Oh, but slow-cooked pork belly with quince, pomme puree, roast onions and French beans definitely is.
How often do you get to see quince on a menu? We know it served as a jelly in Spanish restaurants with cheese, but that’s about it.
The pork comes as a stunning plateful, a riot of colours very unlike the usual drab plate of fat that pubs construct from pork belly.
The crackling has been dusted over the top like saline popcorn and the pork is fall-apart tender with delicious fat, but no grease. The pomme puree is a magical pillow of perfect potato.
The quince works; its gentle perfume and slight sharpness ideal for undercutting belly pork. Beneath is a rich jus, not a gravy but much better, and the French beans have all the crisp snap of a Sergeant Major’s salute.
P’s beef I can see is blush pink, just as it should be. My snaffled sample is thinly cut, but not too thin, juicy, tender and no gristle. Perfect, as are the roast potatoes which seem to have been properly roasted, not dunked in the deep fryer. Yes, that is what passes for roast potatoes in some places.
Her gravy is correct, just enough of it and not the Gastro Pub thin lake of tastelessness submerging struggling vegetables. No horrible cauliflower either, I mean I like cauliflower just as much as anyone, but which fool started putting it with roast dinners? The Yorkshire pudding is a floaty, crispy treat.
It’s all quite filling actually, but it’s quality over quantity. Leave the massive overflowing platefuls to the Carveries and your local pub.
Still, there’s always room for dessert. A slice of Fourme d’Ambert pour moi please and it comes with waffer-thin slices of celery and grape that are subtle and effective, and sweet and crunchy morsels of walnut plus a splodge of walnut puree.
P has the glorious millefeuille, which is sliced from a Billy Bunter sized mothership at table then served. It’s billowy and rich with clementines and her plate is well-scraped. We have done well.
As we leave the restaurant is still cheerfully busy with families coming in, and families still comfortably lingering. It’s a convivial scene.
At £38 each, £12.50 for the little ones, this is a good deal by anyone’s standards and carafes of very decent wine come for an extra £9 per person.
The Bros Galvin have got it right again.