The Greenhouse

27a Hays Mews, Mayfair, London

I’m lucky to have a few friends who share my culinary enthusiasms. Being back in the UK allows me to catch up with them as well as clearly narrowing down our options for where we’re going to meet.

I arranged to meet up with Sean and he kindly offers to take me for lunch at The Greenhouse. It’s a restaurant with a significant gastronomic reputation, but a relatively low profile in the media. I suspect this is because it’s the kind of sleek place generally patroned by hedge fund managers & captains of industry. I of course fit right in….

Our initial expectations are not great with a momentarily jarring of personalities with our maitre D. But that aside, a very good meal begins to unfurl and we begin to relax with a glass of champagne, an obligatory cube of foie gras and a kind of crab roll.

We of course opt for the tasting menu which reads as well as any I can remember – a procession of favourites.

With no mucking around we begin with Simmental beef tartare  with pickled kohlrabi & black truffle. Most places would ease you into a meal with a selection of dainty amuses, but this is big, ballsy and brilliant. Beef & truffles are a winning combination with the kohlrabi providing a bland crunch against the richness of the other ingredients. It goes down extremely well making us feel very buoyant.

Next up is Scottish scallop with creamed morels, grated cumbawa lime and tarragon. It can’t live up to the high of the first course and one (although sizeable) scallop on a plate is always a little disappointing. But it’s very well cooked and again a good balance of flavours with the addition of pear.

Getting back firmly on track we are served steamed brill and prawn with pork consommé, shellfish and seashore salad. It’s a beautiful dish, elegant and satisfying (that will be the pork). Although poached and still in hot liquor the brill is cooked perfectly. The course itself seems to follow a trend of creating dishes which reflect the sea and the plating is very reminiscent of this. It’s memorable.

Continuing the theme of indulgent ingredients next up is pan-fried duck foie gras with rhubarb fondant and beetroot. It’s again a dish of sweet & rich flavours well executed.

It’s at this point I should mention the sommelier who was matching our courses with wines by the glass. He was an Australian in his early twenties and while our servers were a little formal, he was engaging, enthusiastic and taking the time & effort to produce memorable tastes & combinations. He made the meal. If I recall for the foie gras course we had a very youthful sweet red which he confided is extremely popular amongst Austrian adolescents. Very amusing.

Our main course was fillet of grain-fed Aubrac veal celeriac purée, wild sorrel, hazelnuts, liquorice jus. A beautiful tender cut of meat, with a soft richness. Again a good contrast of textures and it was consumed with many appreciative nods.

Moving onto dessert we had Banana and passion sorbet coconut espuma. A fine mini-dessert. Often you get a mickey-mouse fruit course which is just a touch girly and underwhelming. This stayed on the right side of that line, hiding any reference to fruit and maintaining the momentum of the meal.

Our final dish was a deconstructed Snickers bar with chocolate, salted caramel and peanuts. ‘Everyone’ likes Snickers and this was good and satisfying. I’ve already mentioned my love for a bit of salt in my pud and every part of this dish worked well together.

It then occured to us that something was missing. That niggling feeling revealed itself to be the cheese board. Lunch would not be complete without it. It was a fine selection of french cheeses to choose from and of course went down well with another glass of red.

With petit fours & a cheeky eau-de-vie our thoroughly enjoyable lunch came to end – about four hours of good food and good conversation. It was also a tasting menu which did not overwhelm, but was  nicely balanced.

I do like this restaurant. The cooking is very competent with refinement, but not too fussy. The room itself has quite a clubby feel, though with a lightness of touch with greens & cream. I’m not sure it’s a place for a highly social evening (if you know what I mean), but it’s a perfectly civilized to forget about the outside world for a while.


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