Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Green Man and French Horn: offaly good..

Cosy. On a cold November's eve, the wind blustering, the Christmas lights shining (why oh why so early?), we needed a restaurant to warm our cockles, to provide comfort from the Outside. So it was to France we turned, specifically the Loire - stepping inside The Green Man and French Horn, you leave the Outside well and truly behind. A warm welcome, soft lighting and a hallway of a restaurant that somehow makes you feel that it's not just that, we were set up for a night of jollity.

Now I had high hopes for Mr Green and his horn, he is backed by the kind of people who know how to run a restaurant. People who have done this before, well. Take Terroirs, a split level restaurant just by Charing Cross serving two different menus, everything excellent. Brawn, another of theirs, may have run out of their namesake last time I was there, but my oh my did the rest of the menu make up for it. Needless to say I hardly came to this most strangely named of former pubs without expectations.

And I am glad to report that there is no need to draft in Mr Blonde, Mr Blue, Mr Brown or any of the others just yet, Mr Green is doing just fine. A raft of small plates were on offer: London's favourite, rilletes; Jerusalem artichokes, that oh so windy of veg; leeks with brown shrimps. You could make a meal out of these and leave very, very happy.

We decided to get a few to share: "Fresh cheese" was an undressed burrata, resplendent in its nudity; duck egg and salty anchovy soldiers, umami heavy, was a combo to be repeated at home; Game terrine, rich with the weight of venison; sweet and soft Rillon (pork belly), with bitter endive leaves and the punch of mustard. 

"Fresh cheese"
Duck egg with anchovy soldiers
Game terrine
Rillon and endive
Of course, being in "France", we had to indulge in some snails - tender little morsels with a subtle parsley and garlic sauce, interspersed with the crunch of croutons and fried hedgehog mushrooms, a real highlight.

The snails
So onto the main course we marched and I did my usual thing. If there's offal, I'll have it - I just can't help myself. At least this time I knew what I was getting into, despite the kindly look of concern from our waitress. Andouillette - a French sausage like no other. I first had it in Edinburgh when out with a group of mates following one too many pints of IPA (Deuchars, of course), it was described to us as a sausage made with belly. We assumed, belly pork, the meat. No, no, no, you need to go a little deeper than that - it is essentially chitterlings (small pig's intestines), mixed with tripe and wine, encased in more offal.  It is pungent stuff, but once you get over the wiff, it is something to be treasured. And none more so that at the Horny Green Man's place, it may not be from the Loire, but they have it nailed down. Splendid.

Andouillette with mash and mustard sauce

Others went for mussels and clams (both tasty, but a little measly), a rather pricey piece of sea bass (£23 for a smallish portion), and the skate  - pan fried, the whole wing was served. All eminently serviceable, but not up to the same highs as the starters.

On to something sweet - others had the poached pear and salted caramel sauce, "winemaker's tart", and the rice pudding. All great, but the pudding was the star; it enveloped you, a great big bear hug of a dessert. As usual, I had the cheese - limited choice, but what we had was great.

By this point we had worked our way through a little of their rather splendid wine list (which focuses on small scale French producers), and had warmed up sufficiently to contemplate the Outside. Sad as we were, it was time to venture back out into the bluster, leaving behind only memories of a thoroughly enjoyable evening. 

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