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Greenhouse

27a Hays Mews, London, England, W1J 5PY, United Kingdom

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Chef interview

Antonin Bonnet was head chef of the Greenhouse in London. He now runs Le Sergent Recruteur in Paris.

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This was my second time at The Greenhouse since Arnaud Bignon took over the reins in the kitchen from Antonin Bonnet. On this visit I went for the full “discovery” tasting menu, which was priced at £125. There was a slightly shorter tasting menu at £110, a full a la carte choice with three courses being £95, and also a three-course £40 option available.

The wine list at the Greenhouse is one of the largest in London, with 3,500 labels. There are some fine growers, but in general the pricing was far from kind. Some example wines included the excellent Maximin Grunhauser Riesling Abtsberg Spatlese 2008 at £75 for a wine that you can buy in a shop for £20, the rare and impressive Clos Rougeard Le Bourg 2006 at a relatively fair £190 for a wine that, should you be able to track it down will set you back about £154, and Didier Dagenau Silex 2009 at a steep £265 compared to a retail price of £80.

A trio of nibbles comprised a delicate fennel macaron with avocado and wild anise seeds, Xeres vinegar tuile with feta cream, fresh cucumber, dried olives and tomatoes, and finally tuna and melon maki. The macaron was the best of these, the tuna and melon a combination that did not seem to me to work especially well (16/20 on average). Bread was made in the restaurant group's bakery, with a pleasant baguette, very good chorizo and Parmesan roll and genuinely top class puff pastry with tomato and basil (17/20 bread). 

Cornish crab came seasoned with a mild curry dressing, a cauliflower puree, mint jelly and Granny Smith foam. This was a pleasant dish, the hint of acidity from the apple a useful foil for the crab, the mint flavour under control, the spicing very subtle. Personally I would have preferred slightly more spice and acidity, but this was certainly a good dish (17/20). 

Native lobster with potimarron (a winter squash) puree, pink grapefruit and a lobster, tarragon and vanilla emulsion. The lobster was tender but this dish felt a bit overworked, with not enough grapefruit but too much vanilla, giving an overall effect of an overly sweet flavour that did not sit easily with the shellfish (perhaps 15/20). 

Confit hen’s egg came with Jerusalem artichoke foam, toasted cobnuts and slivers of Italian white truffle. The truffle brought its characteristic lovely scent, the cobnuts bringing some balance to the richness of the egg and the earthiness of the artichoke (16/20).

I was impressed with the quality of roasted foie gras with silky smooth texture and deep flavour, glazed with balsamic vinegar and resting in a bed of corn coulis and popcorn with satay spices. The vinegar brought exactly the right balance to the richness of the liver, the humble corn providing a pleasing contrast to the luxury of the foie gras (18/20).

John Dory from Cornwall was precisely cooked, served with a mild tandoori masala, avocado, celeriac puree, crab sauce and confit lemon. The brown crabmeat sauce was quite intense but the hint of lemon brought just enough balancing acidity to the dish (17/20).

Presa Iberica is a cut of pork attached to the shoulder, near the loin. Here it was cooked medium rare and had lovely flavour, served with pearl onion stuffed with sabrassada sausage, aubergine puree, smoked pimento and a caramel made with white wine and sherry vinegar. I liked the sherry influence with the Spanish pork, and the meat itself was excellent (17/20). We skipped the tempting cheese board but the sourcing here is impeccable, even including the rare four year aged Comte from Bernard Antony in Alsace.

Pre-dessert was verjus (the juice of unripe grapes) sorbet with fresh white grape, and was excellent, refreshing and with lovely texture (easily 17/20). I preferred this to matcha green tea crème brûlée with lemon meringue, yoghurt foam and dill sorbet. Each element was well made, but green tea is a tough pairing, and I am not sure that dill is the right way to balance it (15/20). 

Guanaja chocolate fondant had a suitably liquid centre, along with Dulcey chocolate and vanilla and tonka bean ice cream (17/20).  Coffee was excellent, with a range of different beans and roasts available, served with a selection of petit fours. These comprised choux pastry with coconut and lime, blackberry macaron, calamansi and almond tartelette, mint ganache in Andoa Lactee milk chocolate, salted caramel and praline in Manjari chocolate, and finally a passion fruit and coriander ganache in Equatorial chocolate.

Service was silky smooth, our German waitress excellent, the sommelier knowledgable. The bill came to £202 a head, admittedly with some lovely Kientzler Riesling Geisberg 2005; sorry but we drank the last bottle. If you ordered from the à la carte menu and shared a bottle of modest wine then a typical bill would be around £140 a head. This is a chunky price, even in Mayfair. The cooking is certainly very capable here, with some particularly enjoyable dishes in the meal such as the foie gras and the pork, and technically there was little to fault. In a few cases, however, the balance of the dishes seemed to me to merit further tweaking. 

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Further reviews: 26th May 2012

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