Over 6000 restaurants exist in the Capital.  Not particularly surprising for me when I read this in (yet another) harshly written review however the specified figure made my mind spin in terms of how does one possibly have the time to explore so much uncharted culinary territory?  Location is a huge obstacle in this feat however the most ideal way to at least have some form of encounter is by choosing wisely when you are in any other borough other than your own.

On a Friday evening near the Strand, I set myself one sole purpose after a week of  absorbing a lot of new knowledge and that was to enjoy good food and good wine (the brain upload experienced some technical difficulties the previous night due to the usual Anglais way of too much alcohol and not enough fodder. I am less and less fond of this method of socialising).

So whilst scouting for options nearby, the ‘Green Man and French Horn’ popped up on my virtual radar and I was pleased to be in close proximity to what I immediately knew would be a glorious outing.  The premises (a former public house), was now to make a quartet of the existing 3 other restaurants within the same group, the Executive Chef being that of Terroirs, Soif and Brawn that I know so well and love, love, love.  I wrote a previous article about Soif joining the Battersea neighbourhood and after many pleasurable visits to Terroirs also, this French food utopia can quite literally do no wrong in my opinion.

Opening only in early September, it is set amidst the circus-like atmosphere along St.Martins Lane, which always seems to combine the hugely contrasting crowd of culture-seeking theatre goers and beer-angled blood-hounds sadly more distracted by the bright lights and modern-day sirens luring them into their bars.  I was uninterested in any of these odysseys thankfully, so with stoic purpose I entered into 54 St Martins Lane.

I always have much to enthuse about French Cuisine.  Aside from the effortless allure of the countrymen and their inherent amour for all things by mouth (yes, I suppose I am a Francophile) they continually contribute positively to the epicurean world and I am a proud follower.  My companion for the evening arrived without appetite unfortunately, however she was satiated with homme-induced woes which I listened to earnestly.  As for me, there was but one man in mind and he was the Green one.  So I commenced with the menu, assisted superbly by the most mignon waitress I have spied for a while who was bursting with a genuine passion for their offerings.

I had come with appetite so this was to be a Tour de Force for my neglected French-adoring taste buds   The menu is simply written and unfussy, using the Loire Valley as influence with a basic trio of ingredients seeming to be the recipe of success and I began with the Fresh Cheese, Black Pepper & Roscoff Onion.  The cheese in this dish is almost exactly that of cottage cheese, however this sets the standard of how such a cheese ‘should’ be.  Creamily soft, simply offset by a drizzle of olive oil and grind of black peppercorns with a few sweet onion layers on top of this montage of perfection.  I ate it smothered intensely over their crusty baguette slices from the eternally brimming bread basket (what a tragedy indeed to not have bread to accompany any meal).  Absolutely delicious!

Next was the Leeks Vinaigrette with brown shrimps.    Stems of one of my favourite plants are dressed with a buttery sauce and sprinkled lightly with gruyere, topped with these little commas of joy.  Another deservedly attention-drawing dish which made me only continue salivating, so more food had to be ordered.  I then opted for the recommended Girolles, Artichoke and Warm Egg Yolk.  Another splendid dish with fresh, still slightly woody mushrooms mixed up by slices of fresh artichoke with the solar centre of the egg yolk.  Mixing up the egg with its vegetable plate-mates and swept up with roughly teared-up bread is an addictive motion, and I certainly lapped up the offerings with vigour.  Satiety was approaching but I resisted as cheese and (perhaps) dessert was still on my mental to-do-list before departure.

Gazing around the restaurant to catch a moment’s breath allowed me to soak up the atmosphere visually.  Exposed brickwork, quirky and dimly lit lamps with intermittently placed pictures created a very fitting ambience for the clientèle  stimulating my palate for their large organic, bio-dynamic wine range (which again is very profuse, but this is their signature wine list) which line their shelves and also complimented my plates.  4 glasses of red went past my lips that evening, encounters being with the 2010 Touraine – Domaine Clos Roche-Blanche (the very palatable house red), 2011 VdT – Puzelat-Bonhomme (a curiously pungent Pinot Noir), 2011 Bourgueil – Domaine de la Chevalerie (bold and expressive) and the 2011 VdT -Domaine Jean Maupertuis (a Gamay that I indulged in twice).

So when in France, it would sacrilegious to forego one of their key products so I summoned for the cheese board options.  Sadly my memory (or perhaps more lack of concentration at that point) fails me in remembering the choices of cheese, however I did opt for a hard and soft which were consumed speedily.  By now, and particularly being the sole diner that evening, dessert was looking to be an excessive idea however again, knowing my inability to repeat visits without months passing by in between, I thought it best to rustle up more stamina and with encouragement from our waitress, I chose the Pear, Salted Butter Caramel with Sable Biscuit.  Simplicity at best again by delivering a set of three components that intertwine the flavours magnificently.  This dessert was to effectively lay rest to my appetite, so the bill was the final plate ordered.

After parting ways, I took a walk amongst the swarming London streets, amidst traffic-filled airwaves and sidestepping various pavement dwellers.  I tuned in to overhear one conversation between two women who had opposing views of the City; one enjoying the buzz but one craving peace and quiet. Tis true, we live in a pulsing, ear-obtrusive metropolis which at multiple times can be overwhelming, offensive and dizzying.  However with places like Green Man and French Horn, I know that even amongst the Friday evening delirium that descends on the Strand, I have a place to elope to and enjoy simple, highly gratifying French cuisine, drink from an incredible wine range and gain my own sense of calm behind its doors.