When the deep-voiced and confidence radiating cabbie dropped me in front of residential Mayfair mews, I questioned his certified prowess of the city’s streets. Despite the legendary competence of London’s black cab drivers, they are still fallible humans and we all can make mistakes. But, as he assured me that The Greenhouse restaurant is “indeed tucked” inside the apartment building, I cautiously ventured in.
A sigh of relief whiffed off me just seconds later as my spiny heels click-clacked on the pavement. Shaded from the road by a lush coat of greenery, the dimply lit pathway lead into a peaceful nursery of gustatory longings. A warm welcome by the front ladies as I checked in my name in their reservation book, shook off all the remaining anxiety.
The organic yet elegantly restrained décor flows smoothly between the generously spaced tables. Add the serious gourmets inviting quiet ambience that accommodates business meetings as well as romantic soirées, be assured that the party is not going to start anytime soon. At least not here. At The Greenhouse, enjoy the conversation and the brilliant food, but also pay attention to the chef’s signature crab dish, now served as an in-between course to everyone.
British ingredients in the spotlight
The Cornish crab retains its true spirit of freshness, yet there is much more to it. A mint jelly, cauliflower, and zesty Granny Smith apple underline the crab’s raw, sea-salty nature while a pinch of curry balances the coolness of the ingredients with a warming sensation. An applause for this thoughtful expression of creativity that tastes superb!
The in-house custodian of flavors is the two Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Bignon, who casts his fine touch on the classic French cuisine. Bignon’s traditional French training remains the supporting core for many of the dishes while employing contemporary cooking techniques lightens their typically presumed weight. His gastronomic philosophy is focused on finding the perfect harmony in all of his edible creations. The balancing act has become more difficult with my recent dinner there as Bignon’s ambition has recently ramped up. Now he employs more complex ideas on each plate, but still remains true to give you only what is needed on the plate.
French roots blooming in the British soil
The chef’s French training makes a foie gras mandatory on the menu. The goose liver delicacy, although controversially raised, is still popular with many gourmets. In his starter, pan-frying mellows its texture while his alternating seasonal ingredients and cocoa add complexity, savory kick, and exotic aura.
To underline the inherent lightness of the sea produce, fish is not buttered but rather combined with fragrant ingredients. Asian inspiration penetrates the turbot’s flaky white meat in a subtle delight. The Welsh Organic Lamb sourced from the Rhug Estate was perfectly cooked, tender, juicy and sweetened by the Easter promise in Kombu seaweed meets Middle-eastern hummus and lemon. My friend is a fan of the Venison sourced from the Moreland estate. The morsels of the wild animal were given a nordic flare through Quince, Hispi cabbage, and Lingonberry.
Vegetarian options are also available on the seasonally changing menu. Just inquire with the by knowledge-empowered waiting staff hoovering around.
Before the puddings (the British parlance for desserts), a palette cleanser entertained us as the nitrogen trick of molecular chefs steamed off the serving bowl. The lollies coated in white chocolate, filled with by mojito inspired sorbet, were the stars of the evening.
Although the sweets looked tempting, I am always in the mood for cheese when I catch the whiff of the cheese trolley. The mighty cheese trolley, like a white horse on the wheels, elegantly swishes between the tables turning the guests heads to curiously examine its treasures.
Assembled daily from an assortment of French and British cheeses at their peak, it is a fragrant dream-come-true for any cheese connoisseur. Impossible to pick two or three so go for a half of the trolley as I do. I tamed the cheesy explosion by a glass of full-bodied red Rioja. Its bold fruit and daring American oak was becoming well-integrated in the wine after a decade of ageing and matched most of the intensely tasting cheeses.
Diving into one of the best wine lists in London at The Greenhouse
The Greenhouse is one of the rare restaurants in the world to win the Wine Spectator Grand award. Obtaining it every year since 2005, its wine list is one of the rare horses in the stable.
Flipping through the list can take half of your evening, so a sommelier’s help is highly useful here. Starting with a glass of champagne whets one’s appetite for what is to come.
Old vintage Champagnes are the gems in the wine coffin. Chose from the 1959 vintages of Dom Pérignon £2,200.00 or Salon Blanc de Blancs for even more shocking £6,150.00 if you are a billionaire. The legendary Burgundian Domaine de la Romanée-Conti flashes their Richebourg 1929 for £7,800.00; La Tâche 1945 for £11,500.00 or an eye-popping Magnum 1971 for £29,500.00. Bordeaux does not stay shy behind with a magnum of my favourite Château Latour 1900 for £19,750.00; and Château Lafite-Rothschild 1870 for £29,500.00. Australian wines, but also wines from Slovenia, Hungary, Switzerland and even sake from Japan enhance the breadth of the drinks menu.
Specialist wine courses, suitable for beginners as well as advanced wine lovers, take place regularly at The Greenhouse.
✉ 27A Hay’s Mews, London W1J 5NY
☏ +(44) 20 7499 3331