What a scorcher Wednesday was. Despite checking the calendar and noticing it was still March, it was time to dust-off the (plus-size) summer sartorial collection from the Daylight Saving Time depths of the wardrobe. London was looking glorious; magnolia trees in full, proud-as-a-peacock display, packed out, sweaty subterranean trains oozing their way underneath our feet and of course, al fresco dining.
Eating outdoors to most is a delight. If your hayfever is as vicious as mine however, it can be a living hell. Those of you who are merely afraid of wasps can, frankly, get in the bloody sea to relieve yourself of your terror. My enemy is the poltergeist-like pollen; barely visible, a pack hunter which spreads its wings absolutely everywhere to worship the sun and destroy my face and digestive system (I’ll spare you the details) at the soonest possible opportunity for months every year. “Shut up and take an anti-histamine”, I hear you buzz in my ear. A brace of those and a glass of wine over lunch and I’m about as functional as a quadriplegic elephant seal with narcolepsy. Not going to happen. The struggle is real.
When it comes to outdoor spaces to wine and dine in the Mayfair & St James’s areas, the silk-lined gloves come off. Space is at a premium and all of a sudden becomes the most valued real estate in the vicinity including and encircling the W1 postcodes. This is great news for those who are in the struggle.
After finding no luck in securing a sun-soaked spot for our lunch meeting (boo) there was only one option in my mind where all the benefits of the climate could satisfy the demands of wasp haters and pollen loathers alike: Galvin at Windows.
Now in its eleventh year, the restaurant is still rising above all others in the area, being on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton, It’s so high up it almost reaches its own Michelin Star glistening celestially above in the night sky. Fred Sirieix’s front of house team were very kind in allowing us late arrivals, being held up in a tornado of blossom and stinging insects, to indulge in an incredibly well-priced set menu at £25 a head – plus of course, an obligatory bottle of Provence Rosé as recommended by the ever helpful sommeliers.
Joo Won’s South Korean influence on the modern French ethos of the cuisine is still keeping the dishes alive and interesting. The Asian Steak tartare and spicy ginger tones in the velouté to accompany a beautiful fillet of gilt-head bream were the perfect match when dining indoors, yet still reaping all the benefits of a glorious day of premature summer above Hyde Park. A fluffy cloud of poached meringue, tonka bean and pistachio seemed oh so appropriate to finish, considering our altitude.
I’ve been coming back to Windows for years now. The stunning views, the excellent value, service and very creative menus give a unique edge to French-based fine dining. It’s the one restaurant I always say to people who complain about the myth that fine dining is expensive and unattainable to go and visit for lunch. Just make sure that if you’re late and the kitchen is closing, simply you say were brutally ambushed en route by a swarm of wasps with pollen-laced stingers. They must hear that one every day when London is in bloom.
London Hilton on Park Lane, 22 Park Ln, Mayfair, London W1K 1BE