Mere minutes away from the hubbub of Spitalfields' designer emporiums and eponymous market is a temple dedicated to fine dining. Or, more accurately, a chapel. Chris and Jeff Galvin's third restaurant, Galvin La Chapelle, is housed in a vast Victorian former chapel, all airy beams and basilica-like atmosphere. Not to take the ecclesiastical vibe too far here, but I honestly felt blessed eating at Galvin.
It was the night before Christmas Eve when my sister and I visited Galvin together (yes, yes, my blogging backlog is horrendous, I know). What better place to dine in the holy season than a former chapel?
The food, of course, is worthy of benediction and hymn. My starter, warm smoked eel, was perfectly offset by creamy bone marrow, bacon and cubes of caramelised pineapple. My sister's crab lasagne, anointed in French butter, looked and tasted incredible.
Rare meat will always be Bri's Kryptonite. So much so that I could barely capture her Chateaubriand with potato Millefeuille before it had disappeared into her mouth. I take it that she approved.
My main, meanwhile, was a stand-out. Presented in a traditional Moroccan tagine dish, this was tagine as I'd never had it - combining the elegance of Michelin-starred dining with all the flavours of Jemaa el-Fnaa. A tender cut of Brest pigeon lay on top of a minuscule bed of couscous, enlivened with hazelnuts, sultanas, a crunchy pigeon pastilla and harissa sauce, which came in the teensiest of saucepans on the side. I licked my plate clean.
And finally, desserts. We ordered some perfectly delicious classics - chocolate, honeycomb and ice cream and tarte tatin. But for the third time that evening, my order was my favourite. (This never happens! I always like my fellow diner's food better than my own...See what I mean about blessed?)
Lychee soufflé with rose and lychee syrup and sorbet. The waiter completed the dish in an almost ceremonious fashion at the table, cutting a cross into the soufflé and baptising it with syrup. My kind of communion. I thought the flavours were delicate and balanced harmoniously (no overpowering rose here!) and the soufflé was perfectly light and fluffy. Made me feel like a putto diving into a heavenly lychee-scented cloud.
With excellent food, great company and a wonderful ambience, my experience at Galvin La Chapelle verged on the spiritual. 100% a contender for my best meal of 2014, and I'd love to return someday. I'll definitely be seeking out meals at the other Galvin restaurants to see if they're as divine!
And a parting shot from Bri, who can't help posing on Spitalfields' wonderfully atmospheric Georgian cobbled streets. I definitely haven't whiled away the morning lusting after the incredible 18th century terraced houses off Brick Lane on Rightmove. Definitely haven't at all. (I've decided I want to live in a 1724 townhouse once occupied by a Huguenot silk merchant. Now I just need an extra three million pounds or so...)