Naturally, every plate graduated from somewhere fancy with a degree in fine art and symmetrical gardening, the venison taking a first, but let’s be honest, that sort of thing is everywhere these days. What isn’t everywhere, however, is lobster with fried chicken and veal with caviar. Such excellent friends in your mouth and yet so outlandishly peculiar on paper, which is why Arnaud Bignon, the head chef, has two Michelin stars and charges a weeks rent.
In a world where you can pay £340 for a shapeless white T-shirt that comes pre-distressed but has an enormous word covering your chest, the word being Gucci, and the word costing £335 of the £340, some may ask if we’ve reached peak logo. Perhaps Vogue might see it as an ironic T-shirt, but the people buying it aren’t doing so for the irony, or for the T-shirt for that matter. It’s evidence. Evidence that you’re trendy, evidence that you shop in expensive places, evidence that, once upon a time, you had £340 in your bank account. Evidence is of paramount importance these days, and not just the gathering of evidence, but the dissemination of it, which needs to be as wide, rapid and easily understood as possible. Which brings me to the subject of restaurants because London is full of very expensive restaurants and, whatever the bill, there is no evidence after the fact.
Or, I mean, there didn’t use to be. Dining at The Greenhouse, you could be forgiven for thinking it had its own internal meteorological system but, on further inspection, this turns out to be the flash. Putting aside the etiquette of getting out your protrudingly-lensed DSLR with accompanied lightening display in a discreet and dimly lit restaurant, I have to say that if any food deserves to be preserved for posterity in any medium, it’s this food.
No surprises there: The Greenhouse has held on to one Michelin star since 2004 and held on to two since 2014, and it’s obvious why. After the seasonal trio of amuse bouche (a tandoori marshmallow with popcorn, a mini smoked chicken ice cream cone and a shiny green bonbon of cucumber and salmon roe that explodes into liquid in your mouth) and the heavenly house favourite of crab and cauliflower mousse, coated with a glassy green mint jelly and crowned with Granny Smith apple foam, you’re smitten well before you open the menu. And on the subject of the menu, it’s worth mentioning the War and Peace of wine lists: 130 pages of the relatively-reasonable-for-Mayfair, the expensive, the very expensive and the downright disgusting, including a 1961 Pétrus at a suspiciously round price of £45k. I mean what’s a few hundred pounds of rounding up between friends, especially considering the restaurant mark-up on wine means you’re paying approximately £35k more than its market value, money which would, in such a case, definitely be better off being spent on therapy, basic education or penis enlargement.
I started with the lobster, which comes in two ways: first as sweet gobstopper chunks of lobster tail with fried chicken and kohlrabi (it might sound like an extreme Byron-isation of KFC, but it’s actually a revelation: juicily dainty, meaty and delicate in equal measure, divine in every mouthful and perhaps the first time in culinary history that fried chicken has been an accompaniment to anything) and second as a quinelle of lobster ice cream to be eaten with a waffle. I do wish people would shut up about savoury ice cream: it’s invariably a waste of ingredients, calories and goodwill towards chefs, and the only reason people ever think it works is because their taste buds have been numbed into silent submission. On this occasion, however, it managed to be simultaneously sweetly creamy and lobstery and pleasant, although maybe it was just very, very cold. The Other One had blood red Carabineros prawns, also two ways, first smoked over charcoal and served with green mango and shiso, and second with butternut squash as delicate ravioli in consommé. All ridiculously good, but not quite reaching the beatific heights of my lobster and friend chicken.
For main course, or, more accurately, the fourth course, I had a loin of venison with wild berries, celeriac and black trumpet mushrooms: a natural habitat for all concerned, it was richly ferrous and forest-y, an ambrosial plate of invigorating goodness. The Other One had veal with caviar and hispi cabbage, which you could describe as a London-based Russian’s surf and turf, but also, fairly astonishingly, as an actually delicious combination. Pudding, a gavotte (a dry crepe biscuit) filled with honey and Greek yogurt, had to be shared, unfortunately, for reasons of biological capacity, but was a perfectly sweet and light ending.
Naturally, every plate graduated from somewhere fancy with a degree in fine art and symmetrical gardening, the venison taking a first, but let’s be honest, that sort of thing is everywhere these days. What isn’t everywhere, however, is lobster with fried chicken and veal with caviar. Such excellent friends in your mouth and yet so outlandishly peculiar on paper, which is why Arnaud Bignon, the head chef, has two Michelin stars and charges a weeks rent. Taking a photo is almost necessary to hold on to such an expensively exquisite experience that little bit longer.
A la carte 3 courses £100pp, tasting menu £125pp.
The Greenhouse, 27A Hay’s Mews, Mayfair, London W1J 5NY