The List of 12 Michelin Star restaurants consists of a selection of one, two and three star restaurants, ranging in prices and cuisines. Each restaurant has been picked for a specific reason with the ultimate aim of hopefully experiencing some of the best food in the world, as well as trying to work out for ourselves what makes a Michelin Star restaurant. The second addition to our list is The Greenhouse in Mayfair.
The main reason for my choice of The Greenhouse for The List, was as the restaurant of choice to celebrate my boyfriend’s 25th birthday. The Greenhouse is a Two Star Michelin restaurant in London’s rather expensive area of Mayfair. The restaurant is presided over by chef Arnoud Bignon; a classically trained French chef who started his career at the age of 15 in Paris.
When you arrive at The Greenhouse, a beautiful oasis of leafy decking paves the way to the front door. The low lit dining room offers a wonderfully romantic setting, and, in complete contrast to Dabbous, white linen table cloths are present in abundance. The champagne trolley is wheeled over as soon as we take our seats, I order us a glass each of the ‘La Salamandre’ as we have a look over the menu. As it is a special occasion, we go for the tasting menu at a cool £130 each.
First up, we have the canapé selection; spherified shellfish bisque, and crispy chicken skin. The warm bread comes with a choice of seaweed or hand churned butter, with sea salt on the side.
The amuse bouche is put down in front of us; “egg fried rice” we’re told.
Well, it’s safe to say that this was like no egg fried rice I’ve ever had before. The rice was crispy and had been puffed up; a soy sauce sorbet sat on top of the light coriander dressing. Delicious.
The first course on the tasting menu was King crab, served with a velvety smooth celeriac purée and topped with a citrus gel.
An extremely rich and indulgent course of foie gras followed, served with a micro salad of herbs and leaves. While I do have my reservations about eating foie gras, I put them aside for this meal and really did enjoy the course.
Salsify tagliatelle followed and offered a fresh and clean almost palette-cleanser like contrast to the rich foie gras. Although not much of a looker, the pasta-inspired dish was refreshing and came dressed in a delicate halzelnut oil.
As expected of a Two Star menu, lobster graced our table next. The lightly poached white meat came with a beetroot consommé and roasted beetroot. While the lobster meat was sweet and tender, we didn’t feel that the beetroot quite complemented it but it tasted deliciously earthy on its own.
My personal favourite course came next; monkfish, sorrel purée and bottarga. This was my first experience of bottarga, salted cured fish roe, and it was fantastic. The couple of thin slices added a salty contrast the deep, earthy sorrel purée; the meatiness of the monkfish more than capable of carrying both flavours.
The final savoury course was lamb rump served with aubergine two ways; miso marinated and smokey purée. Lamb and aubergine is a classic combination and this dish was no exception, the smokey and sweet flavours of the aubergine perfectly pairing with the pink lamb.
A pre-dessert of sweetcorn sorbet topped with popped corn cleansed the palette before the dessert; a chocolate and yuzu combination with a mint granita. A selection of chocolate petit fours closed the show.
So what did we think? Well it was certainly a meal to remember and for a number of reasons. The food was delicious and the staff did everything they could to make our visit special, including presenting the birthday boy with an exquisitely decorated birthday plate. This was by far and away the most expensive meal I have ever had, and it was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime visit, but was it worth it? I would have to say yes, although I wouldn’t say it was the best meal I have ever eaten. We tried some ingredients we’d never had before and tasted some innovative combinations.
What makes The Greenhouse a Two Star Michelin restaurant? There’s a joke that goes around that says the only difference between a One and Two star restaurant is the white table cloths; well I wouldn’t say that here. The difference between here and Dabbous can be seen in the type of ingredients on offer; foie gras, lobster, bottarga. There is no emphasis on the sourcing of ingredients, only the finest ingredients are good enough. The cooking is of the same high standard, but the service goes above and beyond. Finally, the wine list sets The Greenhouse apart. The sommelier had an infinite knowledge of the wines on offer which was amazing considering the ‘list’ was the size of an epic novel.
Having finally made the big move to London, I decided that I would create a list of 12 Michelin Star restaurants that I would eat my way through over a period of 24 months. The List (as it shall be known as from now on) is a selection of one, two and three star restaurants, ranging in prices and cuisines. Each restaurant has been picked for a specific reason with the ultimate aim of hopefully experiencing some of the best food in the world, as well as trying to work out for ourselves what makes a Michelin Star restaurant. We kick things off, with Dabbous.
Let’s start with the big question: why Dabbous? Well, for starters, it has one of the best value restaurant menus that you could hope to find in London’s swanky Fitzrovia district, not to mention the fact that this place is the proud owner of one Michelin Star.
Five stars from London Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler within the first two weeks of its opening in 2012 saw chef Ollie Dabbous become one of the hottest chefs around. Several years later, what caught my eye when selecting ‘The List’ was the attention this chef pays to the sourcing of ingredients. Growing herbs indoors and at home; this is a true take on the local sourcing trend that we have seen gaining popularity in recent years.
News reached us at the end of February, however, that Dabbous is to close its doors for the very last time in June this year. Cue, panic booking for a table as soon as we could find the time to fit it in.
Walking into Dabbous, you would have no idea that this restaurant has carried a Michelin Star for 5 years. If you’re seeking out white tablecloths, this is perhaps not the place for you. Rough around the edges it may seem to some; exposed brickwork and a lot of wrought-iron. Personally though, I found this to be a nice reprieve from your standard restaurant decor. While enjoying a cocktail downstairs in Oskar’s Bar, we opted for the four-course set dinner menu over the tasting menu, for a not-unreasonable £64 per head.
At the table, the standard restaurant offering of bread was presented to us in a brown paper bag, stamped with the date and logo. Huge green olives were also provided alongside a beautifully sculpted piece of butter worthy of a photo.
Our first course, grelot onions (otherwise known as pearl onions) was sensational. The onions had been dressed with a light and fruity infusion, topped with Marigold leaf; a herb with a distinctive curry flavour that I had not come across before.
The fish course, a delicate broth of monkfish, mussels and cucumber, was the standout dish in my eyes. Beautifully presented with the most perfectly cooked mussels that I have ever had the good fortune to eat.
A simple but delicious main course of barbecued short rib of beef with roasted leek followed; an orange blossom doughnut closed the show.
So, was it worthy of The List? Absolutely. There is no question that sometimes the best cooking really is the simplest. Each course was wonderfully thought out; the presentation was simple but beautiful, and I loved the fact that there were never more than three or four ingredients on a plate. Nothing about Dabbous is uptight and stuffy, from the decor to the staff, it was a fantastic dining experience that I wish I could enjoy time and time again. In terms of value for money, £64 per head may not exactly sound cheap, but for a one Michelin Star restaurant, I think you would have a hard time beating it.
Would I go back again? In a heartbeat… if it wasn’t closing in June. However, fear not. If this has got you itching to try Dabbous, then you will still be able to taste Ollie Dabbous’ fantastic culinary creations as he opens the doors of his new restaurant ‘Henrietta’ at the Henrietta Hotel in Covent Garden today.
Finally, what makes Dabbous a Michelin Star restaurant? A difficult one considering no one really knows what the criteria is. The Michelin Guide aims to celebrate everything incredible about food and drink, and in my eyes, Ollie Dabbous lets the food speak for itself. The food is not messed around with and the flavours are just incredible; and I love the fact that this chef grows his own herbs to use in cooking. It’s exciting food but the kind you could go back again and again for, not a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Also, there’s no need to take out a loan for a trip here.
A page dedicated to the list of 12 Michelin Star restaurants picked to enjoy over 24 months.