London, E1 6DY
Reviewing: La Chapelle Menu Gourmand (£110 per person for tasting menu with seven courses, paired with wine)
RECOMMENDED WITH MINOR RESERVATIONS
So for those of you who were following, I must confess I abandoned somewhat my 2011 quest to dine at all 23 of the Chicago restaurants awarded at least one Michelin star. See all reviews of the list here http://bit.ly/nGR9Vc ….. I was able to review over a dozen of these top spots from Michelin’s guide.
Frankly, I think the Michelin rating system is flawed at best and a fraud if you’re really a cynic. And I know I will get in trouble for that, but I will save that for another post on another day. That said, I was quite bemused when I selected La Chapelle for dinner on the last night of my last stay in London as a “visitor”(1) and found it too was part of a family of restaurants that included Michelin stars. Despite my lack of faith in Michelin’s ability to fairly pick quality restaurants without bias of marketing and fad, I stayed!
As is often our preference, my partner and I decided on the tasting menu, in this case the Menu Gourmand. There is simply no better way to get a sense of a restaurant, sampling what the chef feels are his or her finest delicacies (or what was on sale at the butcher?’ said the cynic). This tasting menu had seven courses ranging from a light lasagna to a meaty pigeon I’m afraid made me think of Trafalgar Square. Including cocktails, deserts and wine pairings, the bill for two of us came to around £350. And overall it was a fine meal.
FOOD – 4/5
Flavourful and well presented, the menu was creative yet filling. Beginning with a lasagne of Dorset crab and cauliflower velouté, we were treated to a gastronomical journey through fish and foul as well as a FANTASTIC but salty risotto of Perigord truffle and Jerusalem artichokes. While a bit salty for my taste, and therefore also bad for my blood pressure, the food wowed me from start to finish. Temperatures were on point, the flow was spectacular (getting heavier each course without extreme jumps), and the wine was perfectly paired. Drawbacks: In addition to slightly salty courses, dessert was awful, like a store bought sponge cake with sour cream on the side and apple compote slathered on top. BONUS – Milan born bartender makes a mean Vodka Martini that allowed me to formally end my day before starting the meal and my evening. I watched and learned from a master.
SERVICE – 4/5
You go to this place for the service and you pay for the service with the fairly exorbitant pricing. But if you don’t want to take a chance with that key client, special date, or the boss, you choose a place like this. The host was pleasant, the managers present but not overbearing and our table constantly attended to. The all-male waitstaff (sadly all too common at these high-end restaurants that seem to feel gender diversity only matters at the host stand) were friendly and prompt. They were not personal at all, though perhaps one or two slipped up and let loose for 10 seconds or so. But they were good. And our food was always hot, glasses full, table clean, etc.
Drawbacks: The explanation of each course got progressively lazier as the night wore on. By the end of the menu, the wine was simply being placed on the table and the courses explained as if we were suddenly at Pizza Express. The place was emptying out and perhaps the team members were tired, but unless you’re going to reduce the cost of a tasting menu for your late night patrons, you must keep it up until you close the doors!
The place is beautifully appointed without being gaudy or austentatious. It is vibrant yet quiet enough for a conversation. It is classy but not pretentious. But it is a bit boring and, despite the romantic sound of the name and the very romantic menu, the place is above all a business restaurant. Bankers and bankers, basically. No evident diversity in either gender, age, ethnicity, or professions. And, I will admit here that I am assuming. You’re right, I did not conduct a survey. The entire restaurant might have been full of bohemian artists wearing bespoke suits for the very first time while discussing Occupy Wall Street.
I love food and I love trying new restaurants, and I am blessed to be able to afford a variety of spots from inexpensive value restaurants to some of the world’s most exclusive and expensive. My value ratings are based on the relevant class of restaurants; a relative rating versus a pure value rating lest all exclusive restaurants would get a 1. Let’s face it, all other things being equal, I would always recommend someone eat a great meal for £50 per person and donate the difference to a local charity. HOWEVER, for a restaurant of this caliber, La Chapelle is appropriately priced on the “border” of too expensive. The tasting menu with wine includes more wine with every course where some have begun pairing one wine with two courses or serving half pours. And you leave feeling well fed. Believe me, I don’t plan to go here again anytime soon, but if looking for a place to splurge for a special occasion, you will likely enjoy this place.
With consistant service, great food, a charming decor that allows for conversation and interaction whether with two or twelve, I rate La Chapelle a 4 out of 5 and RECOMMEND WITH MINOR RESERVATIONS. If dining with business colleagues, I highly recommend it. If dining out with good friends, going on a date or looking for romance, I would likely suggest somewhere else. The place is somewhat too business oriented due to location. Despite officially being in Spitalfields, you might feel more as if you are on Bishopsgate, the closest main street. So that’s my reservation. I like food and I hate attitude. There are awesome restaurants like RIA in Chicago that are fantastic AND relaxed. I would recommend those types of places first.
In relationship with #foodies,
In relationship with #foodies,
Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections
For more reviews, go to my yelp profile here or find me on TripAdvisor with username ALSWharton.
1) This is my first UK restaurant review here and will hopefully be first of many. I am relocating to London and excited about experiencing more great food, especially Indian, French, and “eclectic European” cuisines. Click here for more on my move.