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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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The Greenhouse in Mayfair has a long history, opening in 1977 and featuring many notable chefs overs the years, including Gary Rhodes back in the early 1990s. In 2003 the restaurant was bought by the Marlon Abela group MARC, which also owns Umu and The Square. The latest chef at the helm is Alex Dilling, who joined in August 2018 from the Connaught, where he was the executive chef of the hotel.  Prior to that he had been head chef at Caviar Russe in New York. The Greenhouse held on to its two stars in the 2018 UK Michelin Guide. 

I have written previously about the wine list, which is one of the most extensive in London but also amongst the priciest in the capital, which is quite an achievement in itself. The meal today began with an array of nibbles. There was a sphere encasing a liquid centre of gazpacho served on a spoon, eel rillette in a sesame tuile, and a little cornet with what looked an ice cream but was actually a Caesar salad mousse. The gazpacho had good flavour and the cornet was very nice, but the eel was a bit tougher than I was expecting and a little salty even for me. I confess that I had been spoilt over the past two weeks by eating assorted terrific eel dishes in Japan, so perhaps the contrast in standard was sharper than it would normally be. Overall, 16/20 nibbles on average, the eel dragging that score down a bit. 

A trio of variants on Sicilian red prawn featured carpaccio of prawn, prawn with lemon cream and caviar, as well as a crisp prawn head with aioli.  This was a high quality ingredient treated well, the flavour of the prawn excellent and the preparations letting it speak for itself (17/20). Mackerel from Cornwall came in oyster jelly with oyster cream and crisp quinoa with mustard leaves. This was pleasant and I liked the quinoa texture contrast, but although again I may be reacting to the contrast between this and some fabulous mackerel I had just eaten in Japan, it seemed a pleasant rather than particularly striking dish (15/20). 

I was more impressed with spheres of duck foie gras with an Armagnac marinade with Cevennes onion and lemon grass gel with baby onion, along with caramelised onion and lemon thyme toast on the side. The foie gras had silky texture and deep flavour, and the gentle sharpness of the onions cut through the richness nicely (18/20). A visually striking black egg dish had a soft yolk, the egg encased in a black truffle glaze with cream and black truffle sauce, along with a little loaf to one side. This was a comforting and rich dish, the truffle adding a luxurious note (17/20). The truffles, incidentally, came from western Australia and were very good.

Blanquette de veau had caramelised calf sweetbread with puffed rice, buckwheat and ginger topped with shaved white truffle from Alba. Blanquette de veau is a classic dish where a creamy veal stew is made with butter that is not browned. Here the dish was enhanced by the additional texture of the puffed rice, the hint of ginger and the aroma of the white truffles, the sweetbread itself having lovely flavour (18/20).

Turbot from a 7kg fish came with girolles and a red wine sauce and a boudin noir puree, accompanied by turbot tempura. I am guessing that the turbot was cooked in a waterbath, as it was oddly lacking in flavour for a piece of top quality piece from a large turbot. The sauce was rich and had deep flavour, enhanced by the boudin noir, and the tempura was good, but I just felt that the main element of the dish, the turbot itself, did not really stand out flavour-wise in the way I would have expected (15/20).

Beef from Gunma prefecture northwest of Tokyo was an A5 grade rib cap that had been roasted in a pan, served with a jelly of white soy and black truffle. On the side was spring roll of gem lettuce and mooli (aka daikon) radish along with thinly sliced mooli. There was also a cigar of wagyu tartare encased in thin feuille de brick pastry with lime zest. The tartare worked well, and the radish roll was refreshing. However the beef itself seemed to me a touch undercooked, the fat not fully rendered in the cooking. With highly marbled beef like this it is noticeable that the Japanese cook it longer than we would normally see in Europe, often being medium rather than rare. Overall this was still a nice dish, but I think it could have been even better (15/20).

A pre-dessert was lemon and lime sorbet with vodka foam with Calvados, set into a jelly and topped with a bay leaf tuile. I was expecting this to be nicer than it was, the jelly seeming overly set, and I am not sure what the bay leaf flavour added. I also found the citrus element to be a little too sharp, being slightly mouth puckering rather than refreshing (barely 14/20).

A Chartreuse soufflé came with baba and Chartreuse and lime cream with mint petals. This was quite well made, the centre of the soufflé  perhaps a touch on the raw side, but it was a bit too sweet, the acidity of the lime rather lost amongst the sugar (15/20). A chocolate dessert featured a type of chocolate called Li Chu from Vietnam, a 64% single origin dark chocolate. This came as a tuile and soft ganache, with Madagascar vanilla ice cream and miso caramel. The ice cream was particularly lovely, and paired well with the rich chocolate (17/20). Coffee was a choice of either from the excellent supplier HR Higgins nearby, or an exclusive Nespresso pod blend called Kilimanjaro. Both were good, though I preferred the HR Higgins coffee. Petit fours included a vanilla macaron with maple syrup, Madeleines with lemon thyme and passion fruit pate de fruit.

Service was excellent throughout, the waiters patient and attentive. The bill came to £142 per person including water and coffee, the menu element being £110 plus service. This was a very enjoyable meal, with some ups and downs as is inevitable across so many dishes, but with a couple of genuine highlights. As the new chef beds in I would expect the minor culinary kinks to be ironed out, and the restaurant certainly has the potential to move up a notch or two in my scoring system.

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

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  • Ian Reynolds

    Wonderful writing. Lovely review. A particular highlight for me was the veal stew description - sublime!