Archive for November, 2008

The Greenhouse, London

The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse is a very interesting restaurant indeed. Since it began business back in 1977, under Brian Turner, it has been the stage from which a serious succession of seriously skilled chefs have showcased their talents. This was where Gary Rhodes – back when his spiky hairdo was still considered cool – made a name for himself with his Michelin star-winning born-again British classics. His successor and protégé, Paul Merrett, possibly the only person to win a star without having somewhere to show it off – his restaurant, Interlude on Charlotte Street, was bought and closed by investors as Le Guide Rouge went to press – returned to the Greenhouse to win his second star in 2003. Then, just six days after Merrett learned of this reward, Marcus Abela and his MARC restaurant group (who also own Umu) purchased the property from the Levin family (owners of the Capital), immediately closing it for a four-month refit. Before reopening, Merrett left to set up his own, less formal venture, the Farm in Fulham. In his stead, Antonin Bonnet, who was Abela’s man at Morton’s private members club, stepped in briefly before Bjorn van der Horst was found to take the helm. He held onto the Greenhouse’s star in 2004, even earning an espoir ranking in 2006. In spite of this, that year van der Horst left to join Ramsay’s empire at La Noisette; with his departure the espoir evaporated, but Bonnet reappeared.
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Corrigan’s Mayfair, London

Corrigan’s Mayfair

‘The first person I ran into at Richard Corrigan’s new restaurant was’ Richard Corrigan. As I arrived outside, about to walk in, he walked out, escorting another gentleman with him. Pointing across the street, he showed off the squatters that had moved into the £6.5m townhouse directly opposite. At 18 Upper Grosvenor Street, a black flag hung from the first floor, a neon turquoise light shone inside and members of the Da! Collective chilled on the balcony.

18 Upper Grosvenor Street - Squatters

The chef-patron seemed less than delighted, but maybe that was because these illegal occupants had attracted more media attention than the relatively quiet opening of his new flagship restaurant the previous night. Can you blame the man? With his name literally above the door (and on the cutlery), he clearly means business here. In fact he is so serious about Corrigan’s that he opened it the same day he announced the closure of his Michelin-starred Lindsay House – in May 2009 the Soho townhouse’s lease is up and it is not being renewed. Thus, he has moved both himself and Lindsay’s head chef, Chris McGowan, to his new residence in lavish Mayfair, where he will surely be more comfortable: ‘the Soho neighbourhood proved tough. Many of my staff were attacked, the restaurant was broken into…’
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Le Bouchon Breton, London

Le Bouchon Breton Le Bouchon Breton 2

Brasseries are the Can Can. For sure, this is not a place for refined haute cuisine and three course meals. [It] is a place for relaxed enjoyment…offer[ing] you simple, high quality food…The real origins of French brasseries are lost in time and probably in several litres of beer but nowadays in France they are the bastions of good eating and drinking, locally and informally.’

I (grossly) paraphrase here one Frenchman, perhaps presently more famous among the general public than ever before. Who else followed BBC2’s The Restaurant? Exactement, I refer to Raymond Blanc, whose show has recently concluded rather conveniently – lucky that – just in time to allow Monsieur Blanc to set off on a promotional tour for his new book, in addition to picking up an OBE from her Majesty for the ‘proud’ work he has done for ‘British palates.’

OK, let us forget about Raymond for a moment and refocus on brasseries. This week I decided to lunch at Le Bouchon Breton, the new Spitalfields restaurant, set up by Nicolas Laridan, Francois Betrand and Ian Stoppani; the first was head chef at Le Gavroche, the second, its chef-sommelier and the third, a former-stockbroker-now-restaurateur (It seems like last week’s memorable meal at Le Gavroche is still eating away at my subconscious). Oh, did I mention that Michel Roux Jr. is the consultant behind this venture? Well, he is.
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L’Autre Pied, London

l'Autre Pied 2 l'Autre Pied

Ten years ago, 5 Blandford Street was Stephen Bull Restaurant, apparently where today’s ‘Modern British’ cooking was first invented. Five years ago, Stevie B had gone and, brilliantly baptised, Blandford Street, specialising in ‘Modern British’ and ‘European’ eating, stood there in its stead. One year ago (one year minus two days if for you are a pendant – the pot calling the kettle black, perhaps? jamais) it was l’Autre Pied and, now fully-evolved, ‘Modern European’ cuisine’s turn mettre sur pied at this auspicious address.

Young Englishman, Marcus Eaves, is the Head Chef and triumvir-titleholder – together with double Michelin dream team, Shane Osborn and David Moore – of this tributary (in every sense) to Pied à Terre. Until moving to l’Autre, Marcus had spent two years as Osborn’s sous chef at big brother, grand Pied and before that, had been sous chef at Claude Bosi’s then-Ludlow-based Hibiscus (2*). Born in Leamington Spa, but raised in neighbouring Warwick, he started his career at nearby Simpsons (1*), Kenilworth (now Birmingham); then moving to Lettonie (2*), Bath; prior to a year with John Burton Race at the Landmark Hotel (2*). Accolades that include Midlands Young Chef of the Year and Gordon Ramsay Scholar (both 2004), underlined by this exceptional education, elucidate epithets like ‘the Lewis Hamilton’ of England’s chefs. The Pied à Terre team clearly believe the hype, this is their first foray from home in sixteen years, so they must have great confidence and great expectations for their 27-year-old protégé.
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