Tuesday 2 February 2016
Arnaud Bignon is one of just 22, two Michelin-starred chefs currently working in the UK. He arrived in London in 2012 having begun his career in his native France at the tender age of 15, spending 13 years in Paris that included time working for the legendary Alain Ducasse and six formative years with three Michelin-starred Eric Fréchon at Le Bristol. Bignon moved to Athens in 2005 where he earned two Michelin stars for Spondi, one of the city’s best addresses.
His restaurant, The Greenhouse feels like a secret London address. Hidden away between Hyde Park and Green Park in a tranquil, chic Mayfair mews on the ground floor of a block of mansion flats, you arrive at the restaurant via a boardwalk through gardens set with box hedges and bay trees. But gourmets have flocked here since it was opened in 1977 by hotelier David Levin and its kitchens have been graced by a succession of top flight chefs including Brian Turner and Gary Rhodes.
In the graceful slate, marble and wood dining room, Bignon serves a modern, light version of haute cuisine based on classical French principles but with noticeable Asian influences that sees him pair native lobster with watermelon, peanut, satay and lime; Welsh organic lamb with houmous, kombu seaweed and lemon or langoustine with avocado, lemongrass, yuzu and sake. The chef refers to this sort of inventive interplay between ingredients as ‘jeu des produits’ or ‘playing with ingredients’.
Although there is an avant-garde aspect to Bignon’s sophisticated style of cooking, the origin of the chef’s passion for food is far more down to earth – his grandfather’s garden in France. It was there he first developed the respect for fresh, high quality seasonal ingredients that drives his creativity today.
It’s not only Michelin who have been effuse with their praise for Bignon since his arrival at The Greenhouse. The AA awarded four out of five rosettes in their latest guide, saying that he ‘cooks a refined, hyper-focused interpretation of the modern French idiom from the heart’ while the Good Food Guide said that he ‘achieves a distinct blend of creativity and fashion in his modern menus’. Bignon has said in interviews that he has ambitions to win a third Michelin star. Given his track record so far, it looks like his wish might come true sooner rather than later.
Arnaud Bignon's Obsession 16 Menu:
CAULIFLOWER / CURRY / MINT / CORIANDER
Malagoussia (single vineyard) Ktima Gerovassiliou, Epanomi, Greece, 2014
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE / HAZELNUT / CHESTNUT
Grüner Veltliner, Domaine Gobelsburg, Erste Lage Renner, Kamptal Reserve, Austria, 2013
DUKKAH / ONION / BANANA / KAFFIR LIME
Dada 1, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, 2010
COCOA / BRUSSEL SPROUT / SORBE / PARSLEY ROOT
L’Accent de la Roquète, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Frédéric & Daniel Brunier, Rhône Valley, France, 2006
PEAR - CHESTNUT / CHOCOLATE
Late Harvest Semillon, Gewürtztraminer, Casa Silva, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 2015