November 10 2010
Mark C O’Flaherty
To experience the cooking of one of the most talked-about chefs in London right now, you’ll have to visit a rather unlikely destination in Hackney. Ben Greeno (first picture), who has a decade of experience that includes working on the launch team for best-restaurant-in-the-world Noma, has plans to open his own restaurant in the capital soon, but for the next few months he’s inviting a dozen diners at a time to enjoy a set menu (£60) on sporadic evenings within Bottle Apostle, one of the best wine shops in east London.
When Greeno cooked at The Loft Project, Nuno Mendes’ temporary supper club and “test kitchen”, it had London foodies in a frenzy – and was a sellout. Similarly, when Greeno ran a pop-up dining room in his Hackney apartment recently, seats were very difficult to secure. Right now your name will be put on a waiting list for a cancellation – or make inquiries for January (he’s closed December 15 to January 6) for a seat in Bottle Apostle. It’s worth the wait. He may well be adding extra evenings at other surprise locations, too, and those who register interest first are more likely to get served. It’s a very word-of-mouth affair.
I recently had a five-course meal at Greeno’s apartment that was delicious, inspiring and slick. It was also more fun than I’ve had in a “real” restaurant for years. This is confident, unfussy, clever food: Greeno created a punchy finish to a first plate with a garnish of home-pickled, salted, locally foraged garlic buds. A raw mackerel dish (second picture) with horseradish and cucumber was zesty and fresh. Pork belly with courgette and garlic capers was rich and deep. Pudding was a well-balanced, spiced-apple dish, followed by a spoonful of salted chocolate truffle.
Ben works closely with the experts at Bottle Apostle, who can advise on the perfect pairings (regardless of where the dinner is held). They selected some excellent wines for our evening, which ended with Ben joining us at the table for a midnight glass of Taittinger. The evening rolled out like the most celebratory of dinner parties. Greeno is destined to be a force to be reckoned with in London’s restaurant scene – he’s the perfect host and an even better chef.