GREEN’S: AROUND THE GILLS
HS was talking about his favourite foodie experiences the other day which got me thinking about mine. Well, there’s the obvious ones: supping the Perfect Pint in a good pub; standing at a bar in Madrid quaffing Mahou, eating silky slices of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota and crunching pert little Gambas. Stuffing my face with Haddock and Chips in front of the TV with my Dad is up there as well. All pretty standard stuff.
Most of all, though I spend my Summers looking forward to the start of the Oyster season. God, I love Oysters, especially the Native variety which, for me are one of the great foodstuffs of the UK. Between September and April, on most Saturdays, you’ll find me knocking back a dozen, sometimes more, of the delicious Ostrea edulis in Bentley's or wherever there’s a spare seat at an Oyster bar. What a shame then that my experience at the newly opened Green’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar was so mediocre and disappointing.
Located in the old Lloyd’s Bank building in Cornhill this should have been the setting for a magnificent seafood-fest – think great piles of Shellfish, chilled crisp White Wines and acres of napery. But the owners have somehow conspired to make it feel lacklustre and corporate and more on a par with the neighbouring Green Door where I endured a dire meal just over a year ago. A large bar area could have been a Wetherspoons (which incidentally specialises in converting old banks to pubs) and the restaurant, where I ate, felt more akin to an airport lounge, albeit a Club Class one.
Although DH weren’t knocked out by either of his recent openings, Terence Conran, to give him his due, would have made a lot more of the big space, and I dare say have produced better food. This was the restaurant’s opening day but the problems seemed more fundamental than first night nerves.
I was hoping a stiff £2.50 cover charge might have brought a little more than the dull reheated bread rolls, last seen doing sterling service at cheapo hotel buffets the World over, but no luck. Small things matter, you see, because they contribute to the whole.
I had even less luck with the Oysters. After much too-ing and fro-ing it turned out they’d run out of one of the two Native varieties they’d had. “We had an Oyster competition yesterday” explained my waitress to which there really was no answer. Ditto, the reason my White Wine was lukewarm – their fridge was not big enough. Hard to argue with such cast iron logic - it was like having a debate with John Stuart Mill.
I must have been inadvertently wearing my disgusted of Tunbridge Wells face because the FOH decided to comp the Oysters which was a nice but somewhat OTT gesture. Unhappily for all parties concerned the Oysters, when they did turn up, weren’t worth the wait.
I’m used to seeing my Oysters opened in front of me and I’m always a tad suspicious when they aren’t. Now, call me paranoid, but these specimens seemed odd. They weren’t off – I’m still standing – but they seemed to lack any of the Oyster liquid you’d normally get. The flavour wasn’t great either which I would put down to the earliness of the season. But would it have hurt them to present the Oysters in classic fashion on a nice large tray rather than cram them into a bowl ? You’d never get old Tel treating the poor bivalves like this.
Never mind Sir Terence though, even a cack-handed old fool like me could make a better stab at cooking the piece of Wild Halibut that truly did passeth all understanding. After unsustainable fishing, not paying due care and attention to a good piece of fish is a big no-no for me and the reason I don’t order fish more often in restaurants. The steak hadn’t been overcooked but had been left under the pass to desiccate.
Hollandaise had been pre-prepped, portioned and left to go cold. Chips were sent back for a second frying but were still fat and nasty. In an empty dining room with no pressure this was poor cooking by any standards.
I noted last year how dire the majority of restaurants in the Square Mile are, but given the (slow) rise in standards elsewhere in the capital I had hoped that this would somehow rub off. It seems though that a combination of greedy restaurateurs, expense account dinners and indifferent diners has meant that nothing much has changed. Mark this down as yet another lousy City rip-off.