After a slightly shaky last meal in the Greenhouse, I was dubious about coming back so quickly. However, the hare was still available, and that’s a dish I could kill for, especially Antonin’s version. So, here I was, sitting down in this gorgeous basement tucked away in Mayfair. I let Antonin put a menu together for me, and was more than happy I chose to do so: This was by far the finest meal I’ve had here so far. I would even go as far as saying that this was a straight 3* meal, at least compared to the other 3*s I’ve tried in England. But, let’s see how things went…
To start off, I had a glass of Bollinger Rose, which was just what I like: powerful, quite rich and dominated by Pinot Noir. After this I had a bottle of Coche Dury’s Bourgogne blanc, 2007 and a glass of Didier Dagueneau’s Silex (also from ’07). To finish the meal, I had a Riesling Auslese, from Daniel Vollenweider. The Coche was nice, but still way too young: Too acidic, and quite closed. It was not quite as concentrated and powerful as I had hoped it would be, and still a little nervous. This being said, for a generic white Burgundy wine, it was beautiful, and will certainly improve over the next couple of years. The Silex on the other hand was beautiful, outrageous and unforgettable: The nose alone was a pure delight, and just made you want to dive in. The taste was even more rewarding. One had a feeling the wine embalmed your palate with it’s full-bodied, powerful flavour. It was the first time I tried this, and I sincerely hope I can do so soon again, as I can’t describe how much I liked this. The final Riesling was alright, but nothing I found incredible. In fact, I find that the basic wines of say, Egon Muller or Heyman Lowenstein are much more convincing than this as it lacked concentration for my taste. It was also the first time, that I found a pairing here to be imperfect.
To start the meal, the same nibbles were brought out again: A rhubarb sphere and a few stilton “sandwiches”. These are very pleasant and do what they are supposed to very well.
After this, we got a new amuse bouche. A piece of radish and a thin layer of squid served as wrap for a crab and combava preparation. This dish was brilliant. The look alone was beautiful, as pure as it gets, and so much in Antonin’s style. The taste was exactly what one hoped to get, if not even better. This was a stunning dish, one that was perfectly balanced, beautifully prepared and just excellent.
Next up was a Simmental beef tartare with kohlrabi and black truffles. This dish was also fantastic. The beef of excellent quality, mixed with truffles, a large number of different herbs, some raw pickled, and therefore crunchy kohlrabi and a little truffled sauce. It was a dish, which was not only very precise, and clean, but also very enjoyable to eat. A very fine tartare indeed. Very good to excellent.
Next up was a study in reductionism. A single scallop, cut in half sat atop a sliver of black truffle, and was wrapped in blettes, a type of swiss chard, common on the Riviera and other Mediterranean countries. Around it was poured a creamy, foamy Champagne and Yuzu sauce, and nothing else. The scallops at the Greenhouse have always been very good. This one was no exception to that rule, and was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The truffles were not very present, as there wasn’t enough of them in the dish, but the sauce and scallop combination was beautiful. The blettes leaves added a different texture and a slightly different taste, which only increased the dishes’ complexity. Eating such a dish with a few slivers of truffles grated on top if it, must be amazing, but I haven’t seen that in London yet. Very good.
The next course blew me away. A piece of Scottish lobster sat atop a few gnocchi, and was hidden under a couple of daikon slivers. With it came a few crunchy-fried strips wild mushrooms and a beautiful Amontillado sauce. Boy, the sauce was brilliant, with a very subtle sweetness from the Amontillado. On a similarly pleasant level, were the gnocchi, which were very good too – fluffy, light and tasty – but it was the lobster that really stole the show here. I have trouble to think of a better piece of lobster. This was both tender and nearly crunchy at the same time. Without a hint of chewiness, this was very close to the lobster I had eaten at ADPA a few weeks before. Stunning.
It was time for a little foie gras. Not something I object, and in this case it was a re-worked version of a dish I already loved a few months ago. This time the hot foie was covered in something of a slightly crunchy crust made out of red wine, spices and other things that made me think of mulled wine. With it came a little beetroot juice, a tart piece of rhubarb (to be eaten last) a beetroot cream and a cooked beetroot. The foie was again stunning. Of such tender texture, it was hard to not love this dish, especially if one combined it with the earthy beetroot and had the spicy sweetness from the wine crust. Antonin raised the bar on one of his strongest dishes here. Excellent.
But, forget all the rest, now was coming something I absolutely adore, love,… The lievre a la royale sat in front of me. Beautifully covered with some truffles, served with truffled potato puree, I was in heaven. It was the second time I had this dish, and it was the second time that I was ready to end my life just there. Right on the spot. It is that bloody damn good, that I can’t wait to eat it again when the season starts this year. A better version than this one has rarely crossed my path, as Antonin manages to boil down the strength and power of this dish to create something that has all of the above, but at the same time remains lighter than one would think. The hare is marinated for only an hour or so, much less than the old recipe demands. For the sauce, he uses a light stock to give something very smooth, and not as cloying as the traditional sauce can be. It doesn’t get any better. DIVINE. (the next day, I still had this hare’s taste in my mouth, it’s just glorious).
Anyone who goes here without having cheese is missing out on what I would easily rank among the finest cheeses I’ve had the opportunity to try. Today again, all of the cheeses we tried were excellent, with of course the 4,5 year old Comte, which rivals that of Arpege, ADPA, or the Crillon to name but a few. Christophe also serves a very fine Camembert, which might be better than any other cheese of that type I have tasted. Outstanding.
The pre-dessert hadn’t changed, and I enjoyed it just as on my previous visits. Very good.
As a dessert I had requested the pear millefeuille, of which Antonin spoke last time. It is done in the same way as the Arpege’s, which means that it might not look quite as beautiful, as others, but it tastes bloody amazing. Here the praline cream was additioned with little balls of pear. A brilliant combination, which definitively made my evening perfect. The puff pastry was beautifully caramelised, which made it fragile, and outright delicious. Excellent.
In terms of the wine pairing, I was a little underwhelmed. The Riesling was too acidic, not rich enough for such a dessert. It lost all of its body next to this beautiful dish.
Petit-fours are always beautiful here.
Good lord, Antonin seems in very very good form at the moment. After a slightly less good meal on my last visit (which still featured arguably the best dish I had eaten last year: the hare), everything was back on track. Not only that, it was even better. From the first to last course, there was not one course ,I didn’t enjoy, or which had a slight slip or let alone mistake. He refined his cooking even more, serving the cleanest food in London, and developing his very own style even more. A brilliant start for the new year here. I can’t wait to go back, and will do so in a few days.