27a Hay’s Mews,
London, W1J 5NX
Tel. 020 7499 3331
Food type: Modern French
Nearest tube: Green Park
Website: The Greenhouse
The Greenhouse restaurant is a favourite of mine ever since Arnaud Bignon took over the stoves from Antonin Bonnet, who has returned to Paris to head up his own venture, Le Sergent Recruteur. Bignon was recruited from Spondi (Greece) probably with the very aim of elevating the restaurant to 2 Michelin Star status – a feat which was achieved in 2013. Coincidentally, I was dining here the same night that their new status was announced.
First and foremost, a night out at the Greenhouse is not going to be a cheap affair. A 3 course a la carte meal will set you back £95 and there are two different tasting menus available priced at £110 and £125. The wine list here is extensive (this is the most impressive wine list in England) as it is expensive with markups a standard 3 to 4x the current market price. Look carefully, however and you will find some hidden gems.
Chef Bignon’s style of cooking is very different compared to his predecessor. His time spent in Greece has had a great influence in adopting a lighter style of cooking. Bignon eschews the heavy use of butter and cream for various eclectic ingredients, with a bias towards Asian touches. Some of his dishes make wine pairing challenging but sommelier Marc Piquet (formerly of the Square and L’Espadon) does a very good job with some of the difficult pairings.
One dish with epitomise chef Bignon’s cooking philosophy is his signature of Crab, apple, cauliflower, curry and mint. The picked crab meat is spiked with a little ginger and coriander before being hidden away by a layer of cauliflower puree and mint jelly. On top an espuma of granny smith apple drizzled with curry oil adds depth to the dish. Looking at the list of ingredients, you would be led to think that this is a car crash waiting to happen, yet they come together beautifully and is a joy to eat.
If there is one dish which highlights the attention to detail of the kitchen, it has to be their repertoire of foie gras dishes. Foie gras is not a favourite my fiancé as she does not like the texture of veins that is commonly found in poorly prepared specimens. Here, the kitchen ensures that each piece is meticulously deveined and only the best lobes are used. A recent example would be foie gras served with a basmati rice foam, smoked eel and cider vinegar. The basmati rice foam is a clever touch as it adds a nice richness to the dish whilst remaining light at the same time.
The light approach to cooking means that you will have some room for cheese. The Greenhouse has, in my opinion, the best cheese board in London. Many may cite Le Gavroche as having the most impressive cheese board based on variety and they may be right on that account. However, when it comes to sheer quality and condition of their cheese, the Greenhouse is unbeatable. Sourcing from 4 individual suppliers, their board also features Bernard Anthony’s elusive 4-year-old Comte in perfect condition.
With a new pastry chef on board, the kitchen is now producing some of the most impressive desserts to rival that produced around the corner at Ducasse. Take for example the seasonal dish of wild strawberry with green tea and yuzu – trust me when I say that this dish eats as well as it looks.
The only question left to ask now is whether chef Bignon is content with 2 stars (he has said in an interview that his ambition is to own multiple restaurants with 2 stars) or whether he has further ambition to push on for a 3rd. If that is the case, he certainly has the pedigree to do so, having trained with Éric Fréchon at Le Bristol. Time will only tell, but for now I will just be thankful not to have to wait 3 months for a table to dine here.