The Greenhouse

My previous visit to the one Michelin starred The Greenhouse restaurant was in November 2011 for the glorious Laurent Perrier champagne tasting menu cooked by Chef Antonin Bonnet. Bonnet has since left The Greenhouse to pursue other ventures and was replaced by French born Arnaud Bignon as Executive Chef in March last year. Bignon comes from a wealth of Michelin experience. Prior to his arrival at The Greenhouse he headed up the kitchen at Spondi, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Athens, and previous to that, he was Eric Frechon’s sous chef at the three Michelin starred The Bristol in Paris.

Before dinner we sat in the bar area for drinks (the lychee martini was blindingly good) and canapés which included a deconstructed chicken Caesar salad, a soft mushroom meringue and minced prawns with spices and peanuts. The Caesar salad was a spherified drop of lettuce jelly containing a liquid centre and topped with Parmesan, a squid ink crisp bread and an anchovy. This was reminiscent of the spherified Greek salad canapé that Bignon served at Spondi, a dining experience that I am able to share with you in this blog post. Cleverly done, it exploded in your mouth with the flavours of a chicken Caesar salad to create an electrifying effect. The soft mushroom meringue was fabulous for it teased with a gentle earthy mushroom flavour and was also light and airy in texture. The prawns were pleasant from the spicing and the nuttiness of the peanuts.

Canapés

Canapés

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Alyn Williams at The Westbury

It’s been about a year and a half since Alyn Williams opened his self-named restaurant at The Westbury Hotel on Conduit Street, during which time the restaurant has increasingly grown in fame. And no wonder. For five years Williams was the head chef at Marcus Wareing’s restaurant at The Berkeley Hotel where he was instrumental in helping Wareing win two Michelin stars. Foodie establishments have also acknowledged Williams’ prowess, with Michelin awarding him a one star and The AA Three Rosettes.

The restaurant is is decorated in a style that becomes a restaurant in a 5-star hotel. It has an elegant feel to it with lots of soft furnishings, warm brown colours and soft lighting. It might be stuffy for some, elegant for others. I liked it, although I despaired at the size of the table leg that was almost as broad and wide as the table itself. It was like a tree trunk and left virtually no room for your feet to land. It didn’t create the most comfortable space in which to sit.

But the reasonably priced menu at Alyn Williams at The Westbury heals all wounds. To be sure, £60 is not an insignificant amount of money. But £60 for a seven-course tasting menu cooked by a Michelin starred chef in the heart of Mayfair is good value indeed. In fact, it’s probably the best value Michelin tasting menu in London. Both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian tasting menus are available throughout the week, but the à la carte menu (three courses for £50) is only available for dinner on Monday through Thursday.

To kick off, we were presented with some gougères while we reflected on the menu and decided on drinks. These had been gently warmed and were light and fluffy with hints of blue cheese running through them for a savoury flourish.

Gougères with blue cheese & parmesan

Gougères with blue cheese & parmesan

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The Cube by Electrolux – Simon Rogan

The Cube by Electrolux

The Cube by Electrolux

The concept behind The Cube by Electolux – a “pop up restaurant” – is intimate and original. Sponsored by Electrolux, the restaurant showcases the use of Electrolux products by a roster of Michelin chefs who rotate kitchen duties on a weekly basis. The restaurant, seating only 18 guests, is perched on the 6th Floor of the Royal Festival Hall, and its glass-paneled walls offers luxurious views of The Thames, Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament. An open-plan kitchen affords diners an interactive and visual experience with the Michelin chef in residence.

Simon with his back to us

Simon with his back to us

Lunch is priced at £175 and dinner is £215 for a minimum six-course meal and matching wines. There is also a champagne reception which is enjoyed on the balcony – a treasured moment to allow all guests to drink in the gorgeous views.

The Cube by Electrolux

The Cube by Electrolux

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Hakkasan – The Lunch Menu

I used to love the food at Hakkasan, not to mention their specialty cocktail, the Hakka, so much so that I use to be a semi-regular at the restaurant. Founded by Alan Yau who fused sexy interior design with high-end Chinese food, he created something iconic on the London dining scene. Alan Yau sold his majority share of Hakkasan to an Abu-Dhabi based company in 2008, and since then branches of Hakkasan have sprung up all over the shop with one in Mayfair, four in the US, two in the Middle East and one in Mumbai.

It was difficult to believe that standards would stay the same with the change in management even though it has still managed to hold onto its star. I haven’t been back to Hakkasan since the sale, and to test the waters, we decided to try their three-course set lunch menu (£29). The first course of dim sum platter contained a beef ball, a steamed scallop dumpling, a char sui sou (pork with flaky pastry) and a deep-fried pork ball.

Dim sum platter

Dim sum platter

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L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – Potato Menu

Potato Week will soon be upon us (1st – 7th October 2012), and to celebrate the versatility of the humble spud, the people at Many Faces of Potatoes and the two Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon have come together to create the world’s first ever Michelin-starred potato tasting-menu which will be served during this celebratory week at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Executive chef Olivier Limousin, a protégée of Joël Robuchon, created the menu and was on hand to cook during the preview of this dinner that I attended recently. An eight-course menu with matching wines, it is priced at £152.

The décor at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is decidedly black and sexy. There is a choice of counter seating around the open plan kitchen on the ground floor and table seating on the first floor. Furthermore, there is a lovely bar and terrace area upstairs, which is where we enjoyed a welcoming potato gin cocktail topped with fried potato skin before dinner.

Potato gin cocktail

Potato gin cocktail

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Murano by Angela Hartnett – Lunch Menu

Many people will know Murano by Angela Hartnett from when it use to be part of the Gordon Ramsay family. But in 2010 Hartnett and Ramsay decided to part ways. Other than the change in ownership, little else seems to have changed. The restaurant is still Italian and it still holds a one Michelin star. Angela Hartnett might be the front woman for Murano, but it is really Diego Cardoso who is it’s head chef. I tried the set lunch menu at Murano about three and a half years ago and thought it to be great value. The portion sizes of each of the courses were pretty generous, and before we even began our meal we were plied with a plentiful platter of hams. All this for an incredible price of £25 for three courses.

Consequently I have always wanted to visit Murano for lunch again, and that I did recently. Conceptually, little has changed about the restaurant, not even the interior, but the set lunch menu portions have shrunk somewhat. The coppa di parma and salami platter we got at the beginning of the meal was much smaller than that dished up during my previous visit and we had to share this between four. Nevertheless the platter was very tasty.

Ham and salami platter

Ham and salami platter

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Umu

Umu is a one Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant located in Mayfair. The executive chef behind Umu is Yoshinori Ishii, a chef with 20 years of high end cooking experience. Chef Ishii previously spent nine years at Japan’s three Michelin-starred Kyoto Kitcho. This was followed by postings as the head chef at the Japanese Embassies in both Geneva and New York and as the omakase chef at New York’s Morimoto Restaurant.

Umu offers an à la carte selection of cold and hot starters, traditional and modern sushi as well as main courses. But Umu is perhaps best known for offering a kaiseki menu, a multi-course Japanese dinner which draws on traditional Japanese cooking skills and techniques to harmoniously balance the taste, texture, colour and presentation of the best seasonal ingredients that are used in the preparation of this meal. As well as the standard kaiseki menu, Umu also has a sushi kaiseki menu option, both priced at £100.

We eased into our meal with an amuse bouche of turnip with an unusual pairing of espoisse cheese, wasabi and a balsamic vinegar reduction which proved to be very tasty. It was an unusual concept but it worked surprisingly well.

Turnip with espoisse cheese

Turnip with espoisse cheese

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L’Autre Pied

L’Autre Pied is the little sister restaurant to Pied à Terre on Charlotte Street. Opening in 2007 under Marcus Eaves, it went on to win critical acclaim as well as a Michelin star in 2009. When Shane Osborne left Pied à Terre last year, Marcus took over the head chef spot at Pied à Terre. I adored the food at L’Autre Pied when Eaves was there, having eaten there on several occasions. His cooking was top notch, and the pricing was very reasonable for the standard of his cooking. His one-Michelin star was well deserved.

But his departure has paved the way for some new blood. Enter Andy McFadden who previously worked at three-Michelin-starred Oud Sluis in the Netherlands and under Osborne at Pied à Terre for four years. A new head chef may mean a new approach, but the restaurant has managed to hold onto the contemporary and relaxed style that has always made L’Autre Pied one of the most accessible fine-dining establishments in London.

We kicked off with an amuse bouche of pumpkin and ginger mousse which was wonderfully light and tasty. But the topping of black olive, sesame seeds and chives was probably a little heavy against the delicacy of the mousse.

Pumpkin and ginger mouse

Pumpkin and ginger mouse

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