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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in late June it was announced that The Greenhouse will not reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown. 

The Greenhouse has had many chefs over the years since its opening in 1977, including Gary Rhodes, Antonin Bonnet and Arnaud Bignon. The latest to take the reins in the kitchen is Alex Dilling, who was previously executive chef of Helene Darroze’s two restaurants. The cuisine is essentially French with a mix of classical and modern influences. There was a tasting menu at £125 and another at £145, with three courses from the a la carte menu priced at £100, with a three-course set lunch offered at £45. The wine list here is extremely extensive but highly marked up, and we didn’t venture into that today. 

This meal began with a set of canapés. Gelee of hamachi (yellowtail) was flavoured with yuzu and shiso (perilla) and was refreshing and enjoyable, the acidity of the yuzu precisely judged. A miniature celeriac tart also had confit quail egg and Fumaison cheese and was the weakest of the canapés, being a little bland and dominated by the egg, with the usual distinctive flavour of the celeriac rather subdued, although the pastry was good. Linzer potato confit came with smoked eel and caviar, the potato having particularly good flavour. My favourite canapé was smoked salmon pie topped with kaluga caviar, which was a lovely combination of flavours. Finally, there was a sphere containing cucumber and fine herb gazpacho, which was technically accomplished and had good flavour. On average the canapés were 17/20, though with some variation in standard between them. Bread was from the central Abela bakery, with a choice of baguette, country loaf with rye and a Comte and green olive bread, which were all pleasant. 

The first dish of a surprise menu was Cornish crab with whipped creme fraiche and cuttlefish rillette topped with kaluga caviar that had been aged for five and a half months. The caviar supplier was N25, which is a top-notch supplier used by some three-star restaurants including Schloss Berg. The kaluga fish, a large sturgeon from which this caviar came, are allowed to live up to twenty years of age, which is a lot longer than on many caviar farms, and the quality shows. The cuttlefish had a slightly firm texture that contrasted with the delicate white crab meat and the silky caviar (18/20).

Fine de Claire oyster came with a bavarois of oyster water infused cream, creme fraiche, and koshihakari rice (a premium Japanese rice), dressed with rice wine vinegar and a dash of Meyer lemon. The dish was garnished with raw oyster laced with Indonesian long pepper. The oyster was high quality and the texture combination worked very well (17/20).

Cornish mackerel escabeche was lightly pickled and served with marinated mackerel fillet, raw and pickled carrot with vadouvan infused cream. Finally, there was a jus of apple, fennel and coriander oil. The mackerel was excellent and the spices of the vadouvan sauce worked really well with the mackerel, while the pickling juices balanced the natural oiliness of the fish (17/20).

A large spiny lobster from Brittany was presented and then reappeared as tartare dressed with sake, along with sake gelee, fresh Thai basil and a sake vinaigrette finished with Thai basil oil. This was garnished with pearls of Greek yoghurt. Spiny lobster is an expensive ingredient and the flesh was lovely, the sake an interesting pairing for the shellfish. This was a simple but very enjoyable dish (17/20).

Foie gras from Andignac in the south west of France was poached for a day and then cured with five spice for a further two days, then dipped in a seasoned gelee. The liver was served simply with French quince jelly, with a slice of compressed caramelised puff pastry on the side. This was lovely, the foie gras having silky texture and deep flavour, its richness balanced by the acidity of the quince (18/20). Clam chowder is a classic US soup, but was given a sophisticated twist here with a base of potato set in a parsley gelee, razor clams, cockles, kaluga caviar, clam chowder veloute and Sarawak pepper. The veloute was superb, deeply flavoured and accurately seasoned (17/20).

Wild turbot from Brittany from a very large 7.5kg fish was cooked lightly with the characteristic mother of pearl sheen that precise cooking yields. This came with pickled endive, Jerusalem artichoke, vanilla purée and sauce matelote, which is made from red wine, butter, shallots, sugar, salt and black pepper. The turbot itself was cooked on a robata grill over Japanese binchotan charcoal and was excellent, and its accompanying sauce was gloriously rich. I would have scored this higher but for a minor flaw of a slightly overcooked turbot cheek and turbot skirt on the side (still easily 18/20).

A modern vision of hare royale came with foie gras emulsion and Tokyo turnips. Hare royale is a tricky dish because its traditional form is remarkably rich. In this version, fillet of hare came with forcemeat, leg meat and lardo di collonata, with a base of foie gras emulsion and roast hare jus. The hare was a little dry though the sauce was very good. The turnips provided useful balance for this inherently rich dish (16/20).

Corn-fed Landes chicken chasseur came with albufera sauce and shavings of white truffle from Alba. The chicken was high grade, wrapped in a layer of cep and black trumpet mushrooms, and itself wrapped in a layer of chicken mousse with Alsace bacon, Meyer lemon and lemon thyme. This was all then caramelised, then glazed with a roast chicken jus. Albufera sauce is based on a veloute combined with demi glacé and Madeira. The chicken demonstrated considerable technical skill and had very good flavour, the sauce being velvety and deeply flavoured. On the side were reasonably delicate pommes soufflé with vinegar powder, and daikon radish wrapped around wild rocket and baby gem lettuce (17/20).

The final savoury course was mallard and grouse pithivier with Limousin veal sweetbreads and foie gras. This came with sauce poivrade, made from veal stock, chicken jus, shallots, pink garlic, lemon thyme, Cognac, Xeres sherry vinegar and Sarawak pepper. I have rarely met a pithivier I didn’t like and this one was no exception. The main flavour that came through was the grouse rather than the duck, but the pastry was excellent and the sauce gorgeous (17/20).

In place of a cheese board was a whole baked Vacherin Mont d’Or from Jura, with Alba truffle, cooked with vin jaune and confit potato. There was lightly dressed frisée lettuce for balance. This can be a lovely cheese though I didn’t think this was quite hot enough.Pre-dessert was a cake of Ampersand cultured buttermilk from Lords farm in Oxfordshire. This came with aged kaluga caviar to provide a salty, umami contrast. This was a light and pleasant dish (15/20). Sollies fig from the south of France came with a sphere of fig leaf infused mousse, fig jam, fresh fig sorbet, red wine jelly and fig vinegar jus. The figs were superb, and the combination of different textures worked well (17/20).

Santarem chocolate from New Guinea was made into a ganache with whisky caramel, alongside buckwheat ice cream, buckwheat powder and a caramelised buckwheat tuile. The ganache was silky smooth and suitably rich, the buckwheat adding an interesting textural contrast (17/20). Lovely Panama gesha coffee from Difference Coffee came with a trio of petit fours. There was a smoked vanilla macaron, a chocolate truffle with orange ganache and Moscatel. Finally, there was a little choux pastry with pistachio cream.

Service was superb, our excellent waitress demonstrating considerable knowledge of the ingredients and cooking techniques and able to answer every question posed by myself and my chef companion. This was a birthday celebration and although I saw a bill I don’t want to disclose the amount since I was treating a friend, who will read this review. If you ordered from the main menu and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be around £150. This is of course a nontrivial sum of money, but this is Mayfair, and you could take advantage of the £45 three course lunch menu to keep costs down. Overall this was an impressive meal and a definite step up here from my previous experience here. This lunch showed a kitchen operating at a high level, improving in standard from my previous visit. I will happily return.


Further reviews: 05th Oct 2018 | 16th Oct 2014 | 26th May 2012

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