Friday 18 January 2013

Green Man and French Horn - London

Despite my aristocratic sounding French surname, noble Norman bearing and obvious high intelligence, you’ll no doubt be extremely surprised to learn that I hardly speak any French. I can get by of course, I learnt enough back in secondary school to announce with some degree of fluency, ‘I am Dan. I live in England’ and I can pull off a pretty convincing Gallic shrug of the shoulders and contemptuous ‘damn your eyes’ scowl, whilst sucking on an obligatory Gitanes. Not unsurprisingly perhaps, none of this helped me in the slightest when I visited the Green Man and French Horn for lunch, earlier this week.

This St Martin’s Lane restaurant is from the same stable as the excellent Terroirs, Brawn and Soif and shares their emphasis on good food and natural and biodynamic wine, but in this case all originating from a very specific section of France, which is along the length of the Loire river. This means sod all to me, my geography à la française being about as useful as my shoddy language skills. However, a quick punt on the interweb tells me. It’s the longest river in France (629 miles) and it runs from the Ardèche in the South East, all the way to St Nazaire and the sea, in the West. Educational, eh?

As I arrived at The Green Man it was snowing and bloody freezing. I took a hurried glance at the exterior, which looks every bit the former pub and hurried inside, where the interior is something else entirely. Bare brick walls, black and white chequerboard floor tiles, high stools at the bar. It all feels very comfortable, very French and very unboozerlike.

Running my eye down the English menu descriptions, albeit punctuated here and there with classic French culinary terms, I found myself struggling to remember exactly what some of these dishes were, and believe me, it matters where Andouillette (a particularly ‘challenging’ and infamous sausage made from chitterlings) or Tête de veau (calf’s head) are in the offing.

As if to emphasise the sheer Gallic’ness of the operation, my waitress had the most impenetrable French accent I’ve ever head. When I asked what Saucisse au Couteau was (the Plat du Jour), I was nonplussed by the apparent answer of ‘vegetable box’. Accurately reading the total look of bewilderment on my face, she had a few more attempts until my ear suddenly tuned in and ‘vegetable box’ morphed into ‘pork sausage’.
Idly munching on some rather good sourdough baguette and unsalted butter (to be honest, I’d prefer salted) intriguingly served on a vintage ‘Quo Vadis London’ metal platter, I had a flick through the rather weighty wine list. Comprehensive doesn’t come into it, but at the same time, it’s surprisingly accessible, even for wine dunces like me, with interesting and witty explanations introducing each section. This was all redundant however, as I’d ordered the ‘vegetable box’ plat du jour, and was sipping on the accompanying rather inoffensive glass of house red.
I’d had to look up Rillons (which I now know is a slow cooked cube of pork belly) and bloody hell, I’m glad I did. It was absolutely frigging delicious, served with sliced, crispy, chilled endive, which had been drizzled artfully with mustard. I’ll definitely be having a go at re-creating this at home.
Saucisse au Cocteau, a simple dish in the same spirit of my starter, consisting as it did of pork, crisp veg and mustard was something of a revelation for me. Sausage and mash, yes of course. But the addition of ice-cold lettuce on the side blew me away. It’s just something that would never have occurred to me to add and it worked incredibly well. The mash was very good (as you may know, I’m an absolute frigging connoisseur of mash) and the sausage was coarse and meaty, what can I say. I ate the lot and enjoyed every last bit.

Just then, sitting there with my glass of red wine, my bread to one side and a plate of very comforting food in front of me, I broke out into a smug, self satisfied grin. This all felt very right.
A poached pear sitting in a puddle of salted butter caramel with a sable biscuit propped against it was, pardon my French, un-fucking-believable, seriously good. When I broke through into the centre of the pear and was suddenly surprised by cream oozing out of the middle I almost felt like applauding. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed eating a dessert as much for quite some time.

I’ve got to say, I loved the Green Man and French Horn. I had no real expectations when I walked in, but I left completely and utterly enamoured. There is no extraneous faff or ostentation to what they’re doing, just honest, simple, beautifully cooked and plated food. Which is exactly the sort of grub that I enjoy eating the most. That the accompanying wine list is huge and very accessible just makes the whole proposition even more attractive. Thinking on it, this was easily one of the most enjoyable lunches I’ve eaten in the past 6 months and I will be heading back next time I’m in town, no doubt about it. Chalk this one up as superb.

Green Man and French Horn

54 St. Martins Lane,

Telephone - 0207 836 2645


Ed said...

That pear dessert looks and sounds fantastic. The sausage, mash and lettuce too. Been meaning to head to GMFH for ages; tho post shifts it right back up the pecking order. Nice one.

Dan said...

Ed - The pear dessert was awesome, as was the whole lunch. GMFH is generally a bit special, I really rate it. Looking forward to reading what you think when you visit.

Anonymous said...

The Rillon, looks insane, can't beat a good good bit of roasted pork!Must give it a go next time I'm in London.

Dan said...

Foodnerd4life - Couldn't agree more. I highly recommend it.