Owned by Marlon Abela, the Greenhouse has the UK’s most impressive wine list. Now under the supervision of Marc Piquet, who used to work at the Square and l’Espadon in Paris, it features verticals of the wine world’s great names. Apart from that, you also find more obscure, no less interesting wines, and on top of that, they have an impressive selection of wines by the glass. That allows Piquet to serve some of the most impressive pairings we have had in a long time. Every single wine with the tasting menu here picks up one element of the dish and brings it out, thus completing both the dish and the wine. That is an impressive feat, and only restaurants such as Coi in San Francisco or L’Astrance in Paris are capable of similarly strong pairings.
Another welcome (although not quite so recent) change is the service brigade’s new manager: Arnaud Demas. Having come straight from Ducasse’s London outpost, he has managed to make the atmosphere in this rather plush basement a lot more welcoming, whilst retaining incredibly high standards of professionalism.
The most apparent change, however, is that of the chef here. Antonin Bonnet was responsible for some of London’s most impressive dishes. His hare was easily the best in town, and able to rival with some of the better versions in Paris. The same could be said about his pigeon, lobster or beef tartar. Other dishes were not quite on that level; let down by the ingredient quality, especially when it came to things such as langoustines.
On paper, Arnaud Bignon’s cooking is reasonably similar to Bonnet’s: focused on products, it is relatively simple and very precise. It introduces certain unusual elements that make it surprising. And yet, in real life, it turns out to be completely different.
One of the striking elements is the precision. Not only is the kitchen here extremely good technically, the composition of each dish is remarkably clever. Take a simple combination of crab, mint jelly, cauliflower, apple and curry. What doesn’t look like much turns out to be a perfectly balanced little bowl of contrasting flavours and textures. This is food that is pure and combines products in a very harmonious way.
The same can be said for an even simpler dish of morels, liquorice and Amontillado Sherry. The combination of morels and oxidative wines is a classic (usually with things such as vin jaune), and here Bignon serves a remarkable little plate of mushrooms, their cooking juices and airy foam. There is not much more to this dish, and yet its balance and flavours are captivating. In combination with Julien Courtois’ Originel, you have a real explosion of flavours in your mouth.
Finding fault with cooking of this level is difficult. A John Dory is cooked just as well as every piece of protein in this kitchen, and of a quality that we rarely see in London. The only problem here is the slightly overpowering beetroot element in the dish. Served in a variety of ways, among which a sauce is rather punchy, the fish gets a little lost.
Arnaud Bignon, however, shows how beautifully he can combine a number of odd ingredients and make it taste like they were meant for each other. A veal sweetbread is served with artichokes, capers, coffee and Parmesan. This dish introduces a completely different flavour profile to the cuisine, which makes it one of the most memorable dishes on the menu. Not only does this dish feature the perfect technique and beautiful product quality that you find in all the other dishes at the Greenhouse, but with such unusual combinations, Bignon shows that he cooks food that is unlike anything else in London. Anyone coming here should try this at least once; it is well worth it.