Galvin Green Man, Howe St, Chelmsford
From the high-end world of fine dining in London, Michelin-starred brothers Chris and Geoff Galvin returned to their native Essex with the launch of Galvin Green Man late last year. This is a gastro pub created from the dilapidated husk of one of the oldest public houses in Essex. Built in 1481, its bucolic setting amongst riverside meadows and picturesque village life is actually well placed for diners from London, Chelmsford and the surrounding Essex countryside. Wherever you are coming from, driving through dark, winding lanes with no streetlights is a leveller.
Visible from the road, a row of smoked glass pendant lights suspended above the bar is a sophisticated design feature you wouldn’t associate with a village pub. But this isn’t your average village pub – it’s glamorous, partly because of its shiny newness and partly because of the décor. Let’s remember the Galvin’s brought us the heavenly Galvin La Chapelle in Shoreditch, set in a former Victorian chapel blending soaring vaulted ceilings, stone pillars, draped with glass and metal.
Here at their Essex outpost a glass vaulted side entrance, sandwiched between two brick-built buildings, offers glass double doors inscribed with a ‘G’ logo. A detail that reminds me of rich businessmen with monogrammed hankies and smoking jackets. But the materials used are simple: brown leather banquettes, wooden beams and flagstone floors.
On a muggy night the positioning of log burning stoves in redbrick chimneys placed at intervals throughout the beamed open plan room is a good touch - welcoming, like the young staff, and cosy. Seated right by the fire we start with pork scratchings, £3.50, a pre-starter snack, which arrives in a white paper bag. I'm all for saving on washing up and it doesn’t stay in there for long as we crunch up the blonde salty curls of crackling.
Vegans look away now. It was one of the nicest things I’ve eaten in a long time. Hot, salty, soft in parts, teeth-breakingly hard in others. I follow it up with sautéed wild mushrooms on brioche, the mushrooms delicate and lovely, but the brioche a little too rich and butter-drenched for this early on in the meal. Alistair, my partner chooses a salad of wood roasted beetroots, goats curd and sorrel, £6.50, smoky and moist with flatbread to share, £6.50, loaded with sweet caramelised shallots, black olives and melting goats cheese.
Mains brought lemon and yoghurt spatchcock chicken, £14, tender and herby but better still perhaps if the skin had been crispy, and the largest lamb chop I have ever seen, £16.50, a grilled Barnsley variety sat on a bed of spiced aubergine. This is how I like my meat, a bit gnarly and chargrilled outside, well done but still tender on the inside.
The finale was the pudding. A ‘proper’ thick slice of amber-coloured treacle tart with clotted cream, £6.50. Homely yet clearly made by a deft hand: mellow golden syrup mixed with treacle, cream and a hint of lemon on a ground almond base. It was so good I’m still thinking about it now and may just end up driving through those winding lanes again for another fix.