13 Beauchamp Place, SW3 1NQ
0207 036 3600; www.galoupet.co.uk
Cost per person without wine: £40
THERE is so much that is pleasing about Galoupet. It looks like the kind of place you’d find in one of those super-cool northern European cities like Malmo or Arrhus, frequented by thin-legged crowds of effortlessly wealthy hipsters.
Or, if not to northern Europe, it’s the kind of place that belongs to the future. The dining room is a pale box, flooded with natural light, lined with enomatic wine dispensers and defined by sheer lines.
But the food – the food belongs to a future in which everyone is thin. The menu is completely without simple carbohydrate: no potatoes, bread, rice, pasta. There is natural sugar in fruit, yes, and sugar in the pudding menu. But probably for the first time in my life, I felt neutral (not full, not empty) after eating about six plates at a restaurant. It was all herbs, citrus, vegetable, fruit and small portions of meat. It was, in short, a dieter’s paradise.
But was it a foodie’s paradise?
Sort of. The menu is beautiful and enticing in its strangeness. One gets bored of pork belly with mash and dressed crab, after all. But it’s risky in the sense that it’s fusion, melding Asian influence with bits of Europe and the Middle East. Thai pork salad meets Scandinavia with cured wild sea bass, seaweed and pickled elderberry. Lebanon (or is it the Deep South?) hovers with corn-crusted courgettes with red pepper marmalade and goat’s curd. Italy’s here too: burrata with grilled fennel and orange…and purple shiso. Does the menu deliver on its promise of being delicious and different?
Sort of. I have something of a fetish for multi-courses of vegetables dressed in Asian-style sauces with a bit of this and a bit of that thrown in. I’m known for my wacky salads. But whichever way the cookie crumbles, grilled watermelon in a savoury salad won’t fly. I once had it in Bangkok’s best restaurant, Nahm, and hated it.
Tomato salad was good…well, almost. The tomatoes were a bit too spongey and large (a bit late in the season, perhaps) to merit being the star attraction but the vinaigrette was perfect.
Thai pork salad was the only real disappointment (after all, some may like grilled watermelon): it was basic in the extreme, with a stinky marinade, fatty meat and standard shards of iceberg lettuce.
Onwards and upwards, though: the burrata was good – small for £8 but melting and cool with a welcome tang from the orange. Norfolk white free range chicken with miso, pear and ginger was excellent: the miso adding to the chicken’s sticky unctuousness, whereby the white meat revealed itself moist and bright from inside the richly sauced skin. We had another couple of really super-healthy dishes that put us firmly in line with the thin, beautiful people of the future – one composed almost entirely of different kinds of radish. The star turn – which was probably the most refreshing plate I have ever had out – consisted of mile-long slices of granny smith apple with broad beans, spring onions and a light dressing.
We didn’t drink, and so I really think we did miss out. Galoupet has a vinous emphasis – each dish is paired with a glass. There are 36 wines on offer – four fine wines, four dessert wines, four “Galoupet” wines and 20 “everyday wines”. The food is light and piquant and is made for wine twinning.
Galoupet can obviously do vegetables and understands what is meant by “light dishes”. They’ve tried to make a virtue of them and almost succeed. If you’re the type who eats out in Knightsbridge or the type who spares a thought for your calorie intake (or both), then this slice of airy minimalism is an exciting new addition. I, for one, was happy to be genuinely able to breathe after the meal.