Green Man and French Horn, 54 St Martin's Lane, London WC2

 

I didn't do too much research before setting off for lunch at Green Man and French Horn. All I knew – all I needed to know – before piling in to this Covent Garden newcomer at the earliest opportunity was that a) it's the latest opening from those clever young chaps behind Terroirs, and b) they are very good at creating fine places to eat.

I assumed their latest, a converted pub on St Martin's Lane, would follow in the tradition of Terroirs, their rebooted wine bar and the local heroes it spawned, Brawn and Soif, all built around a winning formula of natural wines and meaty, French-inspired food.

But there's something different about the Green Man. There, on the arty, hand-drawn menu, nestling among the rillettes and roasts, is seafood. And several varieties of fish. And vegetables. What the foie? Could it be that those butch boys have gone all girly…?

In fact, their latest venture is inspired by a specific terroir – the Loire. Ah yes, the Loire. (Rummages through bluffer's guide under the table.) What do we know about the Loire? They make wine around those parts. It's a river – possibly the biggest river in France? It kind of goes up the middle and round to the side [citation needed].

While most of us could probably muster up a few rudimentary facts about the cuisine of Provence, Bordeaux or Lyon, the Loire doesn't have a distinct culinary rep. It covers an enormous swathe of France, from the mountains of the Cevennes to the Bay of Biscay. But, as we have established, it's a river, which accounts for the menu's fishy leanings.

Head chef Ed Wilson has taken regional produce as a jumping-off point, rather than faithfully reproducing traditional recipes. There was an ascetic simplicity to a whole grilled mackerel, immaculately fresh – the skin glistening, the rich, dark flesh falling sweetly from the bone – which came naked to the table with nothing but an acidulous tangle of pickled cucumber. A heap of tiny brown shrimp tumbled from a mimosa fluff of grated egg white and yolk, with some silky, sour-sweet leeks vinaigrette. This is modern British cooking, rather than old-fashioned French.

From that day's menu we could also have feasted on clams with coco beans, sardines à la plancha, or lemon sole with seaweed butter. Earthier options included rabbit braised with salsify in Normandy cider, roast partridge with ceps and pickled walnuts, and an inspired partnership of girolles with sautéed artichoke heart and a single, shimmering egg yolk. How any of these dishes fit in with the Loire theme, I have no idea – but as we've established, the Loire covers a large area, so they could put pretty much anything on the menu apart from haggis, and we'd have gone along with it.

There has clearly been much fetishistic sourcing of ingredients. Take the star dish, coucou de Rennes, which showcased the charms of a breed of chicken apparently prized even more highly than poulet de Landes. Roasted and served in four substantial, skin-on tranches with a perfect still-life of pot-au-feu veg, the flesh was dense and characterful, the fragrant broth intense. At £18, it was an expensive introduction to this superior bird, but as Ed Wilson later ruefully told us, that's exactly what he'd paid for each of them.

As with Terroirs and its spin-offs, the big draw for many people will be the wine list, which majors on organic and biodynamic producers, but concentrates on the Loire and digs in deep. A pichet of Vouvray, the aptly-named Le Dilettante, served us well right through to the cheeses, a grand tour of obscurities introduced to us by our young French waiter with all the faraway reverence he might have brought to a line-up of legendary Gallic pop stars we'd never heard of.

With a couple of puddings – including an instant classic, tarte au vigneron, a boozy take on tarte tatin – we paid £50 a head, though it would be easy to have a fantastic time there and pay much less; the plat du jour, with a glass of wine, costs £10.

The room isn't particularly comfortable; long and narrow, and rammed with unforgiving spindly chairs and close-packed tables. But we still managed to draw out our lunch to nearly 4pm; as with Terroirs, the Green Man feels like some louche throwback, tempting you into a vertical tasting, followed by a horizontal recovery.

What it does have is personality, and that's a heart-warming quality to find in this chain-infested part of the West End. Some enlightened thinking on the part of planners and landlords has turned the tide in Soho and Covent Garden, and allowed quirky, independent little restaurants like this to open and flourish – lovely locals in the middle of the city. My lunch may not have taught me much about the Loire and its gastronomic tributaries. But I did feel as though I'd discovered another reason to fall in love with London.

Green Man and French Horn, 54 St Martin's Lane, London WC2 (020-7836 2645)

Around £50 a head, with wine

Food ****
Ambiance ***
Service ****

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary. All tips and service charge go to the staff'

Side orders: Wine bars

Summertown Wine Café

This popular north Oxford haunt sells a good selection of boutique wines, accompanied by a selection of delicious, deli-style snacks and cold meats.

38 South Parade, Oxford  (01865 558800)

Dalling and Co

The wine list is selected from eclectic independent suppliers, and the tapas-style snacks include excellent cheeses, meats and antipasti. 

20 High Street, Kings Langley Hertfordshire (01923 265574)

Whighams

Arbroath smokie soup, platters of oysters and potted shrimps are  among the snacks on  offer at this popular wine  bar in Edinburgh.

13 Hope St, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh (0131 225 8674)

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker