Monday, 8 October 2012

Green Man & French Horn

Green Man & French Horn is a takeover of a West End pub in what was once known as Theatreland (is it still?) by the team behind Terroirs and others, to become a Loire Valley-specific wine bar. Food has a notable seafood leaning as well as some gamey numbers; no steak frites or even the ubiquitous bavette of latter days in sight...

I’ve been quite vocal about the loss of pubs but in some cases, it can be an improvement. Look at The Opera Tavern for example. There are a lot of generic, touristy West End pubs which London could survive without, provided the replacement is an improvement. In many cases it won’t be of course, but here it is.

It’s a narrow space, brightened up but still very pubby in feel. The wine list is strictly Loire, so there isn’t any champagne or even a more affordable cremant. Our table of four are partial to a drop of fizz, so we settled on a demi-sec sparkling gamay which had zing but wasn’t overly acidic.

Bar food and starters are a bit of a overlap – similar price points and levels of execution lead to some mixing and matching. But I guess some are changeable and some fixed. Most of the starters are more than suitable as small plates or bar food, priced between £5 and £8. But the friendly staff were more than happy for us to play around with these for the first course.

Rillettes with cornichons is a classic, and a dish I’ve enjoyed very much at Terroirs. I found this execution to be somewhat lacking strength of flavour as it was too lightly seasoned. Very smooth though. 

Fresh cheese was an interesting one. The sour flavours of this expanse of untreated cheese were quite an unfamiliar step away from the comfort of ricotta. It may not be for everybody, but it has a rustic, un-manufactured taste, brought out by the sweet shallots, olive oil and pepper to enhance the flavours. Quite unique.

Whitebait were fresh to say the least! Very pungent, these bad boys were hot, salty and spot on.

Rillons is a small cut of pork belly, and absolutely delicious. I rarely order pork belly because I find the fat to meat ratio too high, but this was a perfect way to enjoy the dish. Not only was the cut fantastic and meaty, but also as a starter, it seemed the ideal way to enjoy belly without being lumbered with a main course comprised half of pure fat. Perfectly cooked, this was crunchy yet soft, and full of flavour.

At this point, we had moved on to an unusual Coteaux du Vendomois (£29 a bottle) which had a slight fizz to it.

Scallops are offered as a main at £6 per scallop, one of our party had three. They were repeatedly and enthusiastically described as being like silk.

Two of us had the rabbit with salsify and cider, at £16. This was a great example of rustic French comfort food. Two meaty rabbit legs in a broth of cider, with plenty juicy carrots and parsnips. A lovely dish. My one gripe might be that the cider could have been reduced a little, to concentrate the cider-y taste and lessen the liquid.

Grouse with game chips was our final main – I can’t actually attest to the feedback on this one, but it looked great and its recipient (who has spent not a little time in France) certainly would have mentioned if it were otherwise. 

Desserts were a pear and salted caramel concoction (quite 2011 non?) and a tarte vigneron which didn’t taste as winey as I had hoped. But both were enjoyable. The cheeseboard looked very appealing but we were out of capacity. One for the return...

And there definitely would be a return trip. Our threatened (two hour) table turn never eventuated and so we were happy to stay for another couple of hours drinking more wine. The service was attentive, upbeat and chirpy throughout, and yes they were all French! 

It’s a cosy little place to have in one’s repertoire, especially in the chain wastelands east of Soho. Would be good for a date, or parents, or indeed perfect for a snack and the avoidance of theatre wine if you’re seeing a play too. A solid addition, quite unsurprisingly given the credentials, with the Loire Valley element giving it an original twist.
Food – 8/10 
Drink – 9/10 
Service - 8/10 
Value – 8/10 
Tap water tales – 4/10 (not offered, but brought once requested in a lovely carafe and glasses) 
Staff Hotness – 8/10 (young, French and jocular)

Green Man & French Horn on Urbanspoon

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