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French Restaurants London

I had a very enjoyable lunch at our Bistrot on Baker Street with Jason McAuliffe the Bistrot’s new General Manager. We are delighted that he has joined us and is already settling in extremely well, in fact Chris, Jeff and I think he was born to manage the Bistrot; it really is such a good match. Jason has an incredible background and I am sure that many of you will remember him fondly from his time at Chez Bruce and the Grill Room at the Dorchester. He is quite a character; immensely charming and professional with a superb knowledge of wines. I think his appointment is perfectly timed as this year on 5th September the Bistrot will be 5 years old and we planning a number of celebrations, about which I promise to keep you posted.

When we first opened the Bistrot we very much wanted to offer affordable French cuisine and we still do that today with our 3 course fixed priced lunch and dinner menus at £15.50 and £17.50 respectively, the same price that we started with 5 years ago. I chose from the prix fixe menu this week and it always amazes me how the boys manage to achieve this price, as the quality of ingredients is very good indeed; good husbandry, Chris tells me.

I have always kept a little photo diary of each restaurant particularly as we have made dramatic changes to them all and as Bistrot guests will know, three previous restaurants graced the little premises at 66 Baker Street before we turned up. The image that appears on this diary page is the latest one that I have taken of the restaurant but if you are interested to see some pre-Galvin makeover photos do click on this link (add link)

This is the penultimate week for the Long Launch retrospective, and I still liken the birth of each restaurant to that of children, which of course makes the Bistrot the eldest. I shall leave it to you to choose how you interpret that, just to let you know Chris and I are both the eldest children in our families.

The Long Launch Retrospective

When talking about opening a restaurant the boys (Chris and Jeff) like to use car analogies. We have spent weeks showing everyone our ‘Ferrari-like’ stove and our ‘DB7’ of a wood-fired oven. We have held many team meetings discussing service suggesting that many of our lunchtime Cafe guests may want a speedy service ‘0 to 60 in 7 seconds’, but that it must still purr like a ‘Subaru engine’. How La Chapelle needs to exude the style and class of a Rolls Royce, with the quality and finish of a lovingly polished walnut dash. Sara, on the other hand likens the birth of a restaurant to the birth of a child, months & months of preparation, reading all the books on how to successfully raise it, group discussions on choosing the right name, worrying whether it will it be born on the due date or if it will be late and need to be induced! Whichever way you look at it there’s no doubt that opening a restaurant is no mean feat and has resulted in a mixture of joy, excitement, trepidation, and stress. Whilst when pregnant you may gain a little weight, we have all lost it with Spero, General Manager of Galvin Restaurants, topping the weight loss list with a staggering 14lbs. We are now eagerly anticipating the arrival, Sara is nesting, Chris and Jeff are choosing the celebratory cigar and we are all dreading the months of sleepless nights to come.

Last week we celebrated the arrival of the long-awaited ‘sail canopy’ that completes our Cigar Terrace at Cafe A Vin. The canopy means that we can enjoy al fresco dining whatever the weather, and it has some super heating system too, which will allow us to sit outside long after the summer has gone.

Chris and Jeff were so excited by the arrival of the canopy that they chose to mark the happy event in true Galvin style with a lovely glass or three of Calvados and a Cigar – and they thoroughly recommend the experience. One of our very regular guests, that much loved local artist, kindly suggested that we should also think about offering Pashminas so we have duly obliged but hope that we wont need to take them out of their basket on too many occasions. I will post a photograph of the terrace next week – so watch this space!

We also enjoyed another award. Chris and Jeff were honoured at the Caterer & Hotelkeeper Awards ceremony on Monday night with a ‘Catey’, one of the highest accolades in the hospitality industry, winning Independent Restaurateurs of the Year. The wonderful bronze statuette now has pride of place in La Chapelle, and is truly a thing of beauty. The boys were obviously a popular choice and it is a testament to the respect that the industry has for them. There was a resounding cheer when they went up to collect their prize and I felt immensely proud.

I shared a very pleasurable lunch with our daughter, who is now on her incredibly long summer holidays, at La Chapelle – we both had the prix fixe menu priced at £24.50: Escabeche of mackerel with aubergine puree to start, followed by Tranche of calves liver with caramelised onions and Alsace bacon and for pudding Cherry soup with lemon sorbet; delicious and remarkable value I thought.

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