Review: Galoupet, Knightsbridge

It was eye-bitingly cold up in town today, with fierce gusts hustling the shopping crowds along the streets. Something of a relief then to get out of the night air and into Galoupet. Not much of a relief, though, as the décor of this restaurant-cum-vintner is tastefully cold. The dining room is small, but rather than feeling intimate and special it just feels… small. I think if you were a svelte Knightsbridge shopaholic you might feel at home.

I can’t fault the service. The chaps were very suave in their businesslike suits and attended to us perfectly throughout. We were briefly baffled by the shortness of the wine list (this is a vintner, right?) then entertained by the opportunity to get up en masse and trot to the Enomatic machines by the front door where we could read a description of each wine and take our pick. Short though the list was, all those we tried were very good.

The dining concept at Galoupet is to treat the dishes on the menu as sharing plates, akin to tapas. Choose perhaps three dishes each, our waiter recommended, and they will come for you to share. So that’s what we did, adding one or two sides until it was suggested that we had plenty.

And so we received a progression of dishes ranging from delicious to slightly disappointing. I like smoked eel, and I like Jerusalem artichoke, but I expected something more than a few bits of each tossed together with startlingly bitter leaves and a mustard dressing.

There was a paradox of cephalopods. On the one hand we had octopus cooked to soft perfection, with just a little bite, accompanied by a stimulating purée of fennel and kohlrabi salad. On the other hand we had squid in rubbery chunks, served with slippery black pasta in an underwhelming coconut broth. With some green veg added as an apparent afterthought, since it was wholly unrelated in texture or taste to the rest of the dish. Why would you cook tricky octopus so well and then flounder on the squid?

White crab came served on hollowed chunks of cucumber. Very dinner party. I’m surprised to find myself saying this, but the flavour of cucumber totally overwhelmed the crab. There was definitely plenty in this meal to keep us talking, and lest I’m sounding too critical there was a lovely piece of stone bass served on a beetroot risotto shot through with orange. Also beautiful chunks of slow-roast pork belly, although the tamarind and sesame sauce was disappointingly un-punchy. There was a splendid bit of onglet with crispy polenta, venison set on a gorgeously deep beetroot purée, and decidedly Persian lamb scoring high for the strong tang of cardamom but points deducted for unwanted grisly bits.

In general we found most dishes to be light on seasoning and strong in greenery. At this heavy and indulgent time of year, not at all a bad thing. I think Galoupet is probably cooking for the fashion-conscious habitués of Knightsbridge, who need to fit neatly into their size 0 dresses. Keeping it a bit healthy is fine. My real frustration is with the “sharing plates” thing.

I don’t think the concept works here, nor is it necessary. These creations are too involved, with too many elements, to be successful sharing plates. They are losing their potential by being dumped in a bowl and plonked in the middle of the table to share a spoonful each. Perhaps our problem was in being a table of four? We ordered three dishes each, and they brought them out in order – lighter dishes first, then fish, then meat. So we could have had the makings of a perfectly good three course meal. So… why not?

For this location, for this level of quality, Galoupet is pretty good value. Three dishes and a dessert comes to around £35. But while some things were hits, others were misses, and it’s probably not a place I’ll be popping back to soon.

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