The Greenhouse has an international air that seems out of step with its location down a quiet Mayfair mews. But it’s one that really works, instantly creating the other worldly sense that accompanies any true fine dining experience.
As myself and a friend take our seats for dinner in the hushed, flatteringly lit dining room, there is a feeling we could be in any sophisticated capital city the world over, from Paris to Singapore.
In terms of clientele at the Michelin-starred venue, there are families, couples and business people here tonight, although no one seems to be wearing anything other than the prerequisite black or gray (us included).
Gazing out at the restaurant’s eponymous greenery we are presented with two glasses of Carte d’Or Brut champagne, making it immediately apparent that tonight we are in for unparalleled service, with tables brushed, chairs pulled out and every single detail carefully considered.
We decide to play it safe and plump for the a la carte menu. But before the first course has even arrived to the table, surprises and amuse-bouches abound.
First, we are presented with a delicate beetroot meringue, accompanied by mussel cream on a thin stick and surrounded by a dark sea of cocoa. This dynamic combination of color and flavor is followed by a playful amuse-bouche: a nesting hen egg filled with comté cheese and vin jaune, which has an overwhelming taste that lingers long after consumption.
Chef Arnaud Bignon took over in March 2012 and – almost two years on – it is clear that his enthusiasm is as present as ever. After dinner, he chats to us and reveals that he is currently a fan of hen egg amuse-bouches, though they change each week. He also reveals that the cornish crab –a cool slithery signature dish – is one of the most time consuming to prepare (though, naturally, they all are).
My guest enjoys this particular dish as her starter, while I opt for the veal sweetbread – a mouth-wateringly tasty dish with warm chunks of sweetbread accompanied by powerful parmesan flavour.
Each dish is paired for us with a fitting wine by the restaurant’s sommelier. The restaurant’s impressive cellar is one of its defining features and throughout the night we enjoy everything from a light and airy 2009 Schloss Lieser Riesling Fernherb to a slick medium-bodied 2008 Tamboerskloof Syrah. There are over 3,000 wines on the list in total – sure to please even the most demanding wine connoisseur.
For me, mains is a highlight. My medium Yorkshire Galloway beef is cooked to perfection and a welcome surprise is the inclusion of an Asian-inspired side dish, the beef complemented by mange tout and juicy shiitake mushrooms. My comrade is also equally pleased with a fresh and delicate square of line-caught sea bass.
With barely room for dessert, we trundle on stoically, enjoying a tremendous cheese board and playful white chocolate mojito ice pops before launching onto the main event.
The pineapple desert I’ve selected is a foamy and fragrant lavender-scented affair while the smoked dark chocolate is an ultra elegant presentation with layers of milk, chocolate and chewy cocoa. Pretty petit fours including mini jellies and chocolates round off what feels like an ultra indulgent – yet enjoyable – sweet set.
As we leave, full to the brim with French fancies, it’s clear that The Greenhouse is the place to go in London if you want to impress a client or treat your partner to a long night of gastronomic discovery. Few places in the capital can do this type of traditional fine dining with the prerequisite panache. Definitely worth a visit next time you touchdown in London town.