The Greenhouse, Restaurant Review, April 2010

Posted on: April 10th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Located in a quiet residential area in the heart of Mayfair, The Greenhouse is the flagship of the MARC group of restaurants, where no expense is spared in creating an understated sense of comfort and luxury. Entering by a discrete gate in Hay’s Mews, and passing through the delightful Japanese style garden that runs alongside the restaurant, diners begin to feel an elevated sense of importance as they walk along a canopied, carpeted path towards the main door.

In keeping with its name, the recent refurbishment undertaken by Virgile and Stone reflects natural themes and colours. The décor is primarily in shades of green and brown. Pale green leather chairs and banquettes, vine leaf motifs on glass screens and a trellis of twigs and branches all help to produce a serene, calming effect. The long, low ceilinged interior has a slate floor, with spotlighting, chic standard lamps, and well spaced tables.

Chef Antonin Bonnet’s fruitful association with owner Marlon Abela, first as his personal chef, then in charge of the kitchens of Morton’s Club in Berkeley Square, has culminated in his being given free rein at The Greenhouse.

Passion, Precision and Purity are hallmarks of Antonin’s approach. Passion is reflected in the adventurous, contemporary French menus which display creative combinations, occasionally with Asian and Middle Eastern influences. Precision is seen in the meticulous, systematic preparation and accurately timed cooking that ensures consistency. Purity of flavour, allowing impeccably sourced seasonal ingredients to speak for themselves, is abundantly evident in the finished product.

Although classically trained under Michel Bras, Antonin is not afraid to innovate both in composition of dishes and cooking techniques. However, this is not taken to extremes, with due weight being given to harmony of tastes and balance of textures. Clean lines and elegance typify the presentation of all the dishes.

Fine Dining Guide was privileged to experience a tasting menu with accompanying wines on a recent visit. An amuse bouche of squid ink toast with foie gras parfait demonstrated brilliance of concept, marrying innovation with classical roots. This certainly excited one’s appetite, as did the other amuse bouche –gravadlax with beetroot.

A simple starter featured the humble Cornish mackerel. The utterly fresh fish was enhanced by a gentle marinade and enlivened with cooling cucumber, crisp radish and a citrusy ponzu sauce. This dish would not be out of place in a high end Japanese restaurant. (See above)

(Served with Dveri-Pax Renski Rizling M, Maribor-Perkel, Podravje, Slovenia, 2005)

There followed a more luxurious, complex dish that revealed perfect timing to preserve texture and flavour. Saint-Vincent asparagus, steamed al dente, was partnered with earthy morels and sweet, delicate crayfish. The cep mushroom sabayon complemented these ingredients perfectly. The whole dish, with its vibrant green, pink and brown colours, looked stunningly beautiful on the plate. (above)

(Served with Giant Steps Vignerons, Tarrayford Vinyard, Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia, 2005)

Next, a tarte fine with warm spring vegetables, proved to be master class in vegetarian cookery, as each ingredient retained is true taste and crisp texture. The Parmesan cream added an element of richness without being overwhelming.

(Served with Cline Pinot Gris, Central California, USA 2007)

A generous fillet of brill retained its flavour and moistness through careful, exact steaming. The accompanying pork consomme was inspired, being delicate enough to allow the fish to shine, but complementing it with an underlying richness. The shellfish and seashore salad added textural variety without cluttering the dish with excessive garnishes.

(Served with FX Pichler Gruner Veltliner Loibnerberg Smaragd, Wachau, Austria 2007)

Stuffed saddle of rabbit, savory, braised romaine lettuce and tapenade exemplified once again the skilful bflavours and textures, with precise timing. This was another refined dish in which the individual tastes stood out. Especially impressive was the way in which the tapenade – a strong taste was needed in what was potentially a bland combination – did not mask the subtle flavour of the rabbit.

(Served with Max Doix Salanques, Priorat, Spain 2002)

A pre-dessert of almond blancmange, pomelo and basil chutney and grapefruit sorbet could easily have been a full size dessert, given the quality and attention to detail. Here the rich creaminess of the blancmange contrasted against the mild astringency of the pomelo and grapefruit.

(Served with Daniel Vollenveider. Wolfer Grube Reisling Spatlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany 2005)

Finally, the aptly named dessert “Bounty” was a playful twist on the popular chocolate bar. A perfect sphere of dark chocolate, spiked with coconut flakes, encased a white chocolate and rum mousse. Toasted coconut ice cream added richness to this already indulgent creation.

(Served with Madeira Verdelho, Barbeito10 YO Reserve, Madeira Island,Portugal)

Other details of the meal, from the fine breads to the delectable petit fours, were equally impressive. Overall, it is hard not to admire the attention to detail, the sheer labour intensity, the skilled execution, ingenuity and conscious artistry of Antonin Bonnet’s food.

The highly professional service was attentive, helpful and informed without being intimidating. The Sommelier expertly matched wines from the celebrated 3,300 bin cellar to complement the food.

A meal at the Greenhouse is a total gastronomic experience, a magnet for true foodies, but one where the diner can also feel cosseted and relaxed. The restaurant will doubtlessly go from strength to strength, led by the inexhaustible creativity and refined skills of its head chef Bonnet, who has recently been made partner in the restaurant.