MAYFAIR, LONDON, U.K., Oct. 20, 2014 – The Greenhouse is a spectacular two Michelin starred restaurant in the heart of Mayfair that sets fresh standards for greatness in a city full of cutting edge restaurants.
With impeccable cuisine, brilliant service, and an overwhelming aura of culinary purpose, The Greenhouse delivers far more than just a memorable dining experience. It breaks new ground in defining the limits of the possible.
Set on the ground floor of a residential apartment house tucked away in the quiet side streets of Mayfair, it is not a large space, with 24 tables in a smartly decorated, cleanly designed, window filled environment.
The entranceway, across a wooden boardwalk of landscaped gardens and sculptures, creates an immediate calm that disguises its presence in the heart of bustling Mayfair with a serene quietude that infiltrates the atmosphere of the ensuing meal to come.
Chef Arnoud Bignon has taken his love of locally sourced fresh ingredients and a quirky sense of food combinations to new heights with a menu that is wildly innovative. Grounded in that most consistent of culinary demands for quality, bold thinking, and sheer incalculable greatness, he delivers a five star meal of sumptuous Haute Cuisine that is simply breathtaking.
From the moment of arrival the staff is friendly, attentive, and gracious. The setting is relaxed and comfortable, highly charged with anticipation, but without the intimidating sense that might often accompany an acclaimed two Michelin starred establishment.
The warm personable sensibility pervades throughout the dinner from every member of the staff, from servers to sommeliers to restaurant managers, creating a crisp but casual easiness to the meal that belies its intensity and brilliance.
The styling of the room is airy and cool, with light creamy green wallpaper punctuated by green chairs, open spaces, large windows, and a general soothing atmosphere. A miniature sculpture adorns each table, precisely set in preparation for the audacious meal to come.
It starts with a glass of Drappier Champagne, the favorite champagne house of Charles de Gaulle, and a selection of tantalizing amuse-bouches.
Somellier Marc Piquot creates a journey throughout the meal with a stellar selection of wines from one of the deepest, truly jaw dropping wine lists ever seen.
Our server Caroline is a bundle of crisp energy, precise and exacting while maintaining an ease and effervescence that characterizes the staff as a whole. The selection of fresh baked bread is fantastic, and attention to detail is exemplified when it is served alongside a butter including three different types of seaweed.
The meal begins with a signature dish, Cornish crab in a curry layer at the bottom of a bowl topped with a layer of mint gelee and a molded Granny Smith apple mousse crown. The taste sensation of spooning through each layer and ingesting the explosion of contrasting flavors is exhilarating.
The discovery of the richness of the crab and curry sauce enhanced by the coolness of the gelee and the texture of the mousse, all at the same time, is one of the single greatest meal experiences in memory for a single dish. Enthralling, delightful to look at visually, delicious, and beyond exquisite, it would have been easy to eat several more.
The first courses are accompanied by a Mersault Clos De Mazurey 2010, a white Burgundy of exceptional character and crispness. It serves as a perfect complement to the electrifying second course, native lobster sauteed with a peanut butter glaze over watermelon grilled with lime.
The subtleties of the flavors explode in the mouth with each tender morsal. It begs the question of who puts peanut butter on lobster, and combines it with watermelon, and the answer, of course, is Arnaud Bignon, to amazing effect.
Chef Bignon got his first Michelin star at The Greenhouse in March of 2012, and received its coveted second star just this year, heady honors and accolades bringing grand expectations that, delightfully, are more than lived up to. Today Executive Sous Chef Robert Lechowicz is the guiding hand in the kitchen, executing Chef Bignon’s vision with clarity and panache.
Grilled Foie Gras with a satay and aged balsamic sauce on top of a corn puree is accentuated by a single piece of perfectly popped corn.
The combination is a thing of genius, lending a lovely texture to a beautifully cooked Foie Gras, crisp on the outside, juicily voluptuous on the inside, each flavor enhancing the other, brought back to earth by the corn puree.
Crispy veal sweetbreads encrusted with cobnuts with a citrus sherry emulsion is a sensational encounter with the otherworldly, perfectly singed, meaty and tender.
It is upstaged visually, however, by a magnificent sea bass with calamari and Sicilian prawns in a squid ink and green tomato sauce, an exceptional masterwork of culinary wonder that is even more delicious than it looks.
Accompanying the latter part of the meal is a robust Morey St. Denis 2006 Les Millandes 1st Cru red Burgundy that leaps across the palate, and has legs for days.
The Greenhouse offers a full vegetarian menu just as startlingly innovative as the rest of the bill of fare.
A triplet of three types of Cauliflower, purple, white, and yellow, in a French mimolette, for example, is as dazzling as it is delightful.
A Chateau Belle-Vue La Renaissance 2006 Bordeaux is a perfect companion to the outstanding Yorkshire Galloway beef in a Thai shallot sauce.
It is a simple, tantalizing, brilliantly prepared cut of filet, served with bone marrow and Girolle mushrooms, deliriously tender and sumptuously delicious.
The meal winds down to a close with a series of lovely deserts and the clear understanding that the last few hours have been an exceptionally special experience. Few restaurants create the genuine excitement that comes with a great meal served with audacious character and innovation.
A restaurant lives and breathes by its staff, and managers Arnaud Demas and Agnieszka Loch run a brilliant establishment filled with the enthusiasm of a collective staff that loves what they do, and knows they are on the cutting edge off something truly magical.
Chef Arnaud Bignon has created much more than a restaurant. He has driven the expression of Haute Cuisine in London to extraordinary new heights while wrapping the experience of it in an accessible, lovely, light filled environment.
At the Greenhouse the dining experience is a visual and culinary joy, the staff is exceptional, the service is flawless, but at the pinnacle it is the supremely innovative cuisine that lingers in the mind long after the meal is done.
3 courses at lunch is about $65, a very good bargain, while 3 courses at dinner will run around $150 per person, not including wine. An extensive tasting menu is around $160, while Chef Arnaud Bignon’s special Discovery Menu will run about $200 per person.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal
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