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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Mews of Mayfair

There are a string of notable eateries on Lancashire Court, a darling little stretch off Bond Street right in the heart of Mayfair. There is Rocket, which serves decent and affordable Italian, namely pizzas; Hush, which is owned by Roger Moore’s son, Geoffrey Moore; and Mews of Mayfair, a unique bar (ground floor), restaurant (first floor) and lounge/club (basement) experience that stretches over three floors. The restaurant has recently undergone a refurbishment. Where it was once all shiny, white and a little harsh looking, it is now bathed in softer tones and exudes a warmth that is both charming and stylish. I liked the makeover – the new look makes it the kind of restaurant that you could easily settle into for a classy night out.

And enjoy we did. A smoked haddock scotch egg (£4.50) was remarkably good. Although not particularly smoky, the haddock was flavoursome and moist, and the egg, showed off a shiny golden yolk that had been perfectly cooked to a runny yumminess. I would have happily eaten more.

Smoked haddock scotch egg

Smoked haddock scotch egg

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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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Burger and Lobster

Lobster

Lobster

The concept at Burger and Lobster is really simple. Serve a limited range of dishes which ensures freshness and speedy delivery. Overheads can be kept lower due to less wastage and purchasing economies of scale. These savings can then be passed onto the customer in the way of very affordable meals. This in turn draws in the crowds who know that they are getting a good deal. Add on a no reservations policy so the crowds will have to order drinks at the bar while they wait for a table. Genius! I just wish I had thought of it.

Brilliant business model aside, Burger and Lobster really does offer up a good thing. The owners are the people from the popular steakhouse Goodman, and as you can tell by the name it only serves burgers and lobsters, all of which are priced at £20. There is no menu and the lobster comes as either a lobster roll or a whole lobster, steamed or grilled, and with a choice of two sauces. And if you are particularly hungry, an extra £10 affords you a 2 kilo lobster rather than the standard 1.5 kilo option. All meals come with salads and fries.

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Corrigan’s Mayfair – Lost and Forgotten Menu

Corrigan’s Mayfair is currently showcasing a Lost and Forgotten dishes bar menu which celebrates some lost and forgotten British ingredients. Similar to the Spice Menu that I tried at Corrigan’s Mayfair the last time I was there, these dishes lie midway between a starter and main course size, is great for sharing and very affordably priced. You eat at the bar, and three, five, seven and nine dishes cost £25, £35, £45 and £55 respectively.

We tried the entire menu, starting with Lord Lurgan’s Broth which featured on the Spice Menu also. The recipe for this broth is one that Richard Corrigan found in an old cookery book and has long been forgotten. The broth was beautifully clear and intense with flavour, and there was a smokiness coming through from the use of smoked chicken wings in its cooking. The addition of Grade A basmati rice added texture to the dish.

Lord Lurgan’s Broth

Lord Lurgan’s Broth

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Corrigan’s Mayfair – The Spice Menu

Corrigan's Mayfair

Corrigan's Mayfair

I must confess I didn’t have the best experience when I first tried Corrigan’s Restaurant. Having already eaten at Bentley’s and Lindsay House (Richard Corrigan’s previous one Michelin starred restaurant which now houses Gauthier Soho), I had expected better. But lots of positive comments since have convinced me that perhaps that experience could have been an anomaly. Anyway, things were set right last week when I went to try the spice menu at Corrigan’s which is available until 29 January 2012.

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