It’s thanks to a bunch of squatters some 36 years ago that the Michelin-starred La Chapelle resides in St Botolph’s, a fabulous Victorian school hall
As manager Antonio relates, the group wasn’t made up of just any old squatters – it was the building’s supporters and trustees who, seeing the bulldozers outside about to begin demolition, arranged an impromptu sit-in. Thank goodness they did, because dining on Chris and Jeff Galvin’s sublime French cuisine in this wonderfully Gothic setting has to be up there as one of London’s best gastronomic experiences. But unlike certain fine dining establishments, La Chapelle is devoid of pretension. Yes, it has all the bells and whistles you’d expect, from the starched white tablecloths to the huge, glass-cloched cheese trolley, but there’s a warmth and integrity that emanates from the attentive staff and shines through in the fantastic food we sampled. To begin I opted for the lasagne of Dorset crab, shellfish bisque and sea herbs, a delicate symphony of ocean flavours, while my partner had octopus, lardo and watermelon with red pepper dressing. I’d never been a fan of lardo, a fatty Italian delicacy, however tasting it deep-fried was a revelation. Assiette of Herdwick lamb, roast aubergine and miso glaze followed and was even better than it sounded, as was the fillet of turbot, mariniere of razor clams and sea purslane that graced my partner’s plate. A superb cheese selection was next up, and on our waitress’s recommendation we tried the light-as-air cheesecake of gariguette strawberries, black pepper meringue and strawberry sorbet. Bliss. La Chapelle might reside in a school hall, but school dinners these most certainly ain’t!
35 Spital Square, E1 6DY