2* Greenhouse – Mayfair London

I’m glad we live in an age where Google Maps exists, because without it I’d have spent all day wandering around the back streets of Mayfair looking for the Greenhouse.  The beautiful little restaurant was in the backstreets and mews of one of London’s best areas and was only identifiable from the street because of a discreet sign with a copy of the restaurant’s daily menu proudly on display.

Giving myself plenty of time, I’d arrived almost an hour early for my lunchtime reservation, which gave me time to reflect on how I’d arrived at one of London’s few two Michelin Starred restaurants.  In reality, I’d only been in the country for a few hours, making a beeline for the restaurant after dropping my bags off at the hotel.  The journey had allowed me to reintroduce myself the famous London underground and stretch my weary legs on the walk through the beautiful streets surrounding the restaurant.

Finally understanding the name, the Greenhouse was tucked away at the back of an incredibly peaceful garden setting, a setting which was expertly mirrored inside the dining room.  The greens and browns of the garden  carried on with interesting artwork and displays that really enhanced the feeling of peacefulness.  That feeling was admittedly enhanced by being the only diner in the restaurant (at that point)

After seating me at my table, the smartly attired wait staff brought over the menu and explained a little about Chef Arnaud Bignon’s approach in the kitchen.  Classic French cuisine given the light touch and using only the freshest of seasonal ingredients, Chef Bignon had received his two stars by respecting his selected produce and allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves.  With that in mind, I’d selected the chef’s tasting menu, which promised to be a journey into invention, harmony and flavour.

As with any very good restaurant, my meal started with a series of amuse bouche, which were as beautiful to eat as they were visually appealing. To begin, there was a trio of small bites included a tart of wasabi and mimolette aged cheese, a tuile shaped like a maple leaf with tasty bits of veal and parsley mayonnaise and a jerky-like piece of watermelon with chard and fish.
The extra treats kept coming with an interesting little bowl that was filled with a sea lettuce foam sitting atop crunchy puffed spelt and pan-fried eel.  The contrast of the crunchy spelt and the super light foam played nicely with the salty eel, it was a light and delicious dish.  Lastly, I was presented with a mind blowingly good small dish of Dorset crab with mint and apple jelly with ginger, coriander and a mild curry.  There was a lot of sweetness in the dish, but it was superbly balanced, with no dominating flavours.
It was around the completion of the small bites that a few other diners started to arrive and I noticed that there was no background music.  I found it to be a little unsettling…  Some background noise would have been appreciated, even if it was just bringing the outside in with sounds of the forest.
After the procession of tasty morsels, the first course of Orkney scallops with green zebra tomato, lemon verbena, yuzu and edible flowers arrived.  The dish was definitely worthy of a two star restaurant, looking simply elegant but packing a punch with the flavours.  I particularly liked the use of the green tomato seeds for acidity to balance against the sweet raw scallops.
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Living in Hong Kong, there’s an abundance of foie gras in French establishments, so I was keen to see how the Greenhouse would compare.  It was a wow moment, the plate as beautiful as a work of modern art, a fig jam carefully used as the base of the dish, which came presented with crunchy almond tuile.  The foie gras was glistening, soft, warming and utterly delicious; cooked expertly, it was just perfect.  I did notice thought that it was only half of what you’d normally see in Hong Kong, which was a little surprising to me.
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Fish course was an well cooked piece of John Dory, covered in a clear sauce made up of wakame seaweed and was quite fishy on its own.  There was some sweet tomato prepared two ways on the plate, which contrasted nicely against the mild taste of the Dory.  There were also a couple of little cockles on the plate, which were the most intense flavours on the plate, perhaps just a little bit strong for my palate, and maybe just a little strong for a mild fish like John Dory.
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I was most looking forward to the meat dish, and was not disappointed.  The Presa Iberico was another beautifully presented dish, the pork cooked medium and served with a wonderfully sticky and intensely flavoured jus, which was poured at the table.  Adding contrasting flavours to the sweet meat were some pickled vegetables wrapped in some diakon and a Thai basil sauce, giving a little sharpness to the dish.  It was simply delicious and at the end, I was left wanting more.  In fact, it was so good that all I wanted to do was lick the plate clean…
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Things had been moving at a just the right pace, and as the tasting menu had progressed, the restaurant had slowly filled with an interesting array of diners that included business men, couples on dates and even some tourists.

My pre-dessert palate cleanser of lime pannacotta with a mojito sorbet and lime juice arrived, the creamy pannacotta hit contrasting wonderfully with the cold of the sorbet; the sweet sour balance perfectly achieved.

Dessert was pretty much a deconstructed peach melba, with slices of fresh white peach sitting alongside peach sorbet and towers of little red currant, vanilla and almond stacks.  Continuing the trend of beautifully presented ingredients that were allowed to speak for themselves, the white peach dessert was a wonderful way to finish the meal, although if truth be told, I’d have loved a peach souffle to round of the meal.

It’s hard not to compare a two Michelin Starred London restaurant with Hong Kong’s list of two starred places.  There was no doubt that the food was sublime, the setting incredible and the meal memorable; but no more exciting than Hong Kong.  Where the Greenhouse was quite special in comparison to its Hong Kong counterparts was the price; so much cheaper than HK!  I guess there are benefits to having some of the world’s best produce on your doorstep, as opposed to having it travel half way round the world..

I’d not heard of the Greenhouse prior to planning my culinary journey while in the UK, which is a little surprising, given how great the meal was.  It just goes to show that the resurgence in UK cuisine runs much broader than the celebrity chefs who seem to get all of the press outside of the UK.

It was an impressive start to my UK trip, my first day and first meal completely memorable.  But with another two weeks in country, I had high hopes that there would be a few more memorable meals to be had!

http://www.greenhouserestaurant.co.uk/

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The Greenhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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