Last week a group of us ate at The Greenhouse - the first time I've been back for probably fifteen years. The last time we'd eaten there it was still being run by Gary Rhodes - I had the most delicious plum tart tartin served with cinnamon ice-cream - yummy.
But when the Hubby said he'd booked it for us to take some chums as a celebration, I wasn't terribly impressed... 'No', the hubby protested, 'they apparently have a new Michelin starred chef, who's doing great things...' Well allrighty then.... Now, we did arrive a little the worse for wear, but the staff bundled us into the glass box that I assume passes as a private dining space, and I thought things looked really rather positive.
The BBC were wandering around filming various bits and pieces, and our amuse bouche were rather good - cubes of salmon with horseradish, little cubes of fois gras, I think, in-between dark wafers of some kind... We ordered a bottle of champagne from the very extensive list, and then the Hubby noticed that there wasn't a bottle of red under about £250... Good lord - thank goodness I was on the white! I calculated the mark up at about 400%... 400%!!!! One red was marked up by over 600%. I haven't see mark-ups like that for years! We buy Antinori wines direct from the wholesaler, so I know exactly how much a bottle of Solaia or Cervaro should be, and this was pretty far off the mark!
Now, I'm not going to bitch about how outrageous that is - we were celebrating, in very good company - and we were all having a very good time.
Gradually though, we started to notice a certain surliness in the lead waiter - I think he thought us oafish, and assumed that we weren't paying attention the food - actually we were all paying rather a lot of attention to everything going on around us... (The sommelier by comparison was prompt, courteous and attentive - as well he might have been at those prices.)
As a pre-starter we were given a little demi-tasse of white onion foam, with a herb liquor, exactly as it should be - a little explosion of tastes. Now I'm not a massive eater, so I chose two starters - I had a fois gras terrine with a roasted shallot sliver on top of a little shard of something, and it was delicious! I followed that with a little roast lobster tail about the size of a langoustine tail), and that was equally yummy.
We had a variety of dishes between us, with the others opting for John Dory, lamb, halibut, sea bass etc, and all were very well executed... We ended with a lovely little strawberry tart, which was light and moreish. There were also some very good petit fours, little chocolate slivers etc. All in all the food was very competent, and I think I would return...
However, I can't help feeling the whole process was ruined by the said waiters' behaviour: we'd be in the middle of a discussion, and let's remember there were six of us, and he'd interrupt us just to pronounce (in a bored fashion!) what each pre-thingie was... I absolutely understand a restaurant taking pride in their food however, we hadn't ordered the tasting menu - we weren't here to pay homage to the chef... These little amuse were supposed to complement to meal, not dominate it. We were paying to eat the food we'd chosen, not to become slaves to the freebies.
So if you're looking for a foodie experience, I'd highly recommend The Greenhouse - but expect to mortgage your house if you want to get stuck into the wine list! However if you're looking for a good night out, with lovely food thrown in, I think I'd spend my money elsewhere. What's called for on that kind of occasion is Sheekey's or Boxwood Cafe (I understand Ramsay is looking for a new site since the old one closed).
- Posted from my rather delicious little iPad