Restaurant Review: The Greenhouse, Mayfair in London
The Greenhouse in London’s upmarket Mayfair district is a two Michelin star awarded eatery offering classic French cuisine with heavy Far Eastern influence.
The entrance to the restaurant takes you well away from the Central London location and transports you to a calmer place guiding you through a tree lined pathway with tinkling water features and an abundance of greenery to start your experience at The Greenhouse at ease.
My guest, Nick, and I were warmly welcomed by the ever so friendly staff, who made us feel relaxed and well looked after throughout, interacting well with us and other diners. Inside the restaurant the décor is fairly neutral, bringing the elements of the outdoors in. Olive green leather chairs sit around white clothed tables upon a dark wood floor. Glass partitions are decorated with a leaf pattern and one wall has silhouetted branches painted on it. There are plenty of floor to ceiling windows letting light in and the elegant space has low lighting (the restaurant is on a lower level so needs some artificial light, even on a summer’s day) creating a relaxing environment.
Now to the food and to start we were brought a glass of deliciously light Champagne along with some canapés. The tasty bites consisted of a delicate steamed bread with a Japanese style sauce on a bed of sesame seeds, ‘chicken Caesar salad’ – chicken, cheese and a herb pate sandwiched between two crisp thin croutons, and a pea and mint tartlet. We were then offered a selection of warm breads of which I chose a chestnut and a seeded option, both of which were lovely and crisp.
Chef Arnaud Bignon is known for his passion for the finest quality ingredients, combining his traditional French training with modern cooking techniques. For our meal we opted for the six course tasting menu (£110 per person), which was a showcase of his signature dishes. The summer tasting menu was really well balanced with a heavy influence on lighter, delicate textures and sweeter flavours, even when combined with richer red meat elements.
Before we sampled any of the listed courses we had not one amuse bouche, but two. The first was sweet potato ribbons and purée in a lemongrass foam with a mozzarella crumb. The dish was ice cold, which seemed strange, but was tasty. The foam was pale green and had the texture of melted marshmallow and reminded me of something I might eat at Halloween with the bright orange potato, but it was a delicious and delicate dish with light, refreshing, tangy and sweet flavours. Next up was Dorset crab, cauliflower purée and mint jelly – one of the chef’s signature dishes, I was informed. It looked great with a green jelly holding up a white ball of sweet purée. The savoury dish was light with herby and sweeter flavours and smoother textures with the refreshing mint jelly working well with the crab and cauliflower.
The first course of the tasting menu was Orkney scallop with green zebra tomato, lemon verbena and yuzu. This was paired with a lovely sweet and citrusy glass of 2012 Domaine Louis Michel & Fils Butteaux, Chablis Premier Cru, France. The scallop tartare was sat with a yuzu gel, tomato inner, samphire and was decorated with purple flower petals. The sloppy nature of these ingredients and the way they were served were offset by a salty rice crisp on the side. I love scallops and they were prepared well here but I felt they were overpowered by the tangy yuzu flavour and got a little lost on the dish. The skill and presentation were there and the dish was intricate and delicate but this wasn’t my favourite way of sampling scallops. The wine stood up to the yuzu with its strong flavour and was quite delicious.
Course two of foie gras with cherry, almond and elderflower looked incredible on the plate. A large swirl of red cherry purée had a chunk of pan fried foie gras in the middle, which held a thin layer of elderflower jelly on top. Decorated with little flowers, cherry chunks and thinly sliced almond, this plate was a work of art with colour, flavour and modern technique shining through. I personally didn’t like the foie gras, I thought it was greasy and just didn’t like it pan fried – I prefer less of it and more of a cold pate serving. However, Nick loved it describing it as soft, delicate, rich and tasty so it really it a matter of opinion! It was paired with a glass of 2011 Wwe Dr H Thanisch Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, Germany, which was sweet and thick in flavour (if I am permitted to describe wine as thick in flavour) uplifting the rich meat and complementing the fruits on the plate.
Course three of wild sea bass, turmeric, leek and parsley was my favourite dish so far filling my mouth with an array of flavours. A fillet of plump sea bass was paired very well with a turmeric and coconut sauce, flavoursome leek and dusting of parsley. The most important ingredient was the coconut, which brought all other flavours together creating a mouth-watering plate of food. The delicate textures and aromatic flavours were complemented with lovely citrus and floral flavours in the wine pairing – 2013 Toros Friulano Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Course four was a juicy chunk of Welsh organic lamb – Rhug Estate – which came with harissa, aubergine purée and pressed aubergine with sesame seeds on top, soya and lamb jus. The small, simple dish showcased the quality of the ingredients and the strength of the flavours. The lamb was tender and plump, while the aubergine was moist and delicate with the sesame seeds adding a warming, nutty flavour. Nick said he would have liked some crispy textures, I didn’t mind, I thought the rich, tasty, salty, delicate and juicy elements of this dish were lovely. With this we enjoyed a glass of 2011 Domaine de Fontbonau, Cotes du Rhone Rouge, Rhone, France. which went down very nicely.
Course five appealed to me; it was a matcha tea yogurt mousse, yuzu sorbet and pineapple chunks, which created an explosion of sweet and fizzy flavours. Individually the elements were wonderful and together they created a lovely, fruity dish with the creamy yogurt, tangy sorbet and little pineapple pieces delighting my taste buds. Nick wasn’t overly keen, but I loved it.
Course six of rhubarb, coffee and lemon balm had me intrigued as to how the flavours would work together. When the waiter brought the dish over he started to grind coffee over the plate – for a split second I thought it was black pepper but he assured me it wasn’t, phew! The dish was intricate with lots of creative cooking techniques being displayed. There was thinly sliced and rolled rhubarb, chunks of the fruit that had been poached in lime juice, a sorbet, gels, smooth coffee pieces, petals and leaves all working in harmony together. I was afraid the coffee would overpower the sweet fruit flavours but they needed it to create a well balanced dish that was delicious and full of colour.
After this we had a selection of rich chocolates and fruity petit fours with a hot drink, which was a lovely end to the meal. Each dish was put together very well showcasing fine ingredients, delicate presentation and high quality cooking skills. There were some elements that I didn’t like and others that I loved, and if I didn’t like them, Nick certainly did. I was pleased to try the varied tasting menu and it was just the right amount of food for lunch.
In a nutshell
French cooking combines with Far Eastern influence to create well prepared and presented seasonal dishes in a calming environment – a world away from the stresses of Central London. The Greenhouse clearly works hard to retain its Michelin stars, which I feel are well deserved.
Address: 27A Hay’s Mews, London W1J 5NY / 020 7499 3331