Monday, 8 August 2011

Restaurant review: Galoupet

"The oligarchs and Arab princes who use Knightsbridge as their personal playground aren’t likely to bother with a restaurant where the most expensive bottle of wine is only £205..."

When your dining companion declares 10 minutes after sitting down for her birthday dinner that you’ve made a big mistake in your choice of restaurant and she wishes you’d gone somewhere else, you might think you were in for a tough evening. But this review, in the grand spirit of Agincourt, Mafeking and Dunkirk, is the story of triumph in adversity.

Galoupet opened on Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge in July this year, and despite a glowing review from Fay Maschler in the Standard there has been relatively little fanfare and buzz surrounding it. I’m not sure why: it is another place that’s employing that modish sharing plate format; its owners also run a vineyard in Provence – Chateau du Galoupet; it has employed a head chef of pretty impeccable pedigree (Nahm, Nobu, Zuma, The Square) and it has London’s first champagne enomatic machine.

Indeed it was that glowing review in the Standard which prompted me to book the table for VD’s birthday treat. The whole premise of the place sounded right up my alley, with interesting, far-eastern influenced food and an emphasis on matching food with wine - every dish has a recommended wine from the list to go with it which you can order by the glass. So far so good, so what was the reason behind the early outburst?

Well VD is not one to hold back with her opinions, but in certain respects I agreed with her on this occasion. The flies in the ointment are the interior decor, the atmosphere and probably the location they’ve chosen. The room is very white, very sterile and the muted atmosphere on our Friday night appeared to reflect this. Admittedly it was was only about a quarter full, but I got the feeling that even if it had been full, the combination of the room and the formal (but pretty hesitant) service wouldn’t have created much of a buzz.

It is hard not compare it to places like Polpo or Bocca di Lupo in Soho, where they use the same sharing format with the food but have managed to create places with real atmosphere and sense of excitement. Unfortunately it is this which is lacking from Galoupet and I can’t help feeling if they loosened up a bit and  had decided to locate a couple of miles to the east things would improve. After all, the oligarchs and Arab princes who use Knightsbridge as their personal playground aren’t likely to bother with a restaurant where the most expensive bottle of wine is only £205 (Krug Grande Cuvée) and no dish on the menu is more than £12.

So that brings us round to the food, which I thought was almost faultless and such quality that it rescued the evening. Everything is designed for sharing and apparently comes to the table when the chef decides (in this case starters then mains…). Although I usually eschew the pre-dinner bread and olives routine, the olive oil crisp bread and dip they served up was pretty good and served as a sign of things to come.

We followed this up with a salad of figs, fregola, orange, kombu and hazelnut; and octopus with fennel, kohlrabi and miso. While some of the ingredients used were more west than east, the cooking and flavours were straight out of south-east Asia. Both were very good and had a real freshness and vitality about them. The wines picked to go with each dish were also well chosen; I particularly enjoyed the Gruner Veltliner which went with the octopus. A brief word here though, I found it odd that for a place that is partly selling itself on the quality of its wine list, and wine and food matching, there was no advice offered by a sommelier (and if there was one, s/he wasn’t apparent).

The main courses (if you’re allowed to call them that) followed suit and were delicious. The onglet with mandarin, papaya and peanuts was straight from the Thai school of hot, sweet, salty and sour cooking and was a really good poshed up version of that Bangkok favourite Yum Nua. On tasting the lamb with chilli pickled fennel and pistachio, VD emitted the kind of noises that I’d imagine are usually only heard in the marital bed; after fighting her for a piece I did the same (not really, I’m not quite as demonstrative, but it was great). We went off piste regarding the choice of the wine to go with the lamb, and the Rioja I went for was pretty good. But it was a testament to the wines recommended on the menu that upon tasting the Rioja with the beef it really didn’t match; whereas the pricey Priorat (£9 a glass) did so very well.

We weren’t that tempted by the desserts in the end, but I’m fairly sure that the pastry chef wouldn’t have been allowed to let the side down. So in that case how would I sum up Galoupet?

Well it really is a restaurant of two halves; the atmosphere and room leave something to be desired, but the quality of the cooking and the very reasonable pricing of the food and the wine is exemplary and typifies all the things I like about a good restaurant.

The key question as always is would I go back? Yes for the cooking alone. I think it is a perfect place for lunch, but if I’m out with a few friends for a night out I might stick to somewhere with more of a vibe.


Galoupet, 13 Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, SW3

Open from 8am for breakfast, lunch and dinner!


  1. The food sounds incredible - I want to go! Pity they let themselves down slightly on atmosphere and service. Lamb with chilli, pickled fennel and pistachio? I need to eat that dish...

  2. What are fregola and kombu ? Food sounds good. What's off piste about Rioja with lamb. Good choice in my book. Who is this VD? Sounds like someone who gets stuck into her food and drink, but would she pass up on tickets for a Test Match ?