Tuesday 14 May 2024

Baudry Greene, Covent Garden

There are few things more important in the success of a restaurant than pedigree. If you are able to launch one good restaurant, you're more than likely to be able to make a good go of a second. And then a third, and so on. Well, up to a point. You don't want to spread yourself too thinly (just look what happened to Byron, or Jamie's Italian) but if you - and the people around you - know hospitality well enough to own one roaring success, chances are you'll be able to do it again.

Baudry Greene is the latest venture from the people who run the effortlessly enjoyable French bistro 10 Cases, and dazzlingly brilliant little seafood restaurant Parsons, all within steps of each other on Endell St in Covent Garden. I was expecting to love it, and I did, because everything that's good about 10 Cases and Parsons is on full display here too - a menu you want to order everything off, sparkling service and a very special atmosphere created by a room of very happy customers having the time of their lives.

But Baudry Greene isn't anything so straightforward as Parsons 2, or, er, 11 Cases. It's best described as an elevated cocktail bar, where a top notch wine list and sophisticated cocktails are served alongside dishes designed for scoffing and sharing, and snacks, such as these distressingly addictive parmesan and gruyere bites, which take the concept of drinking food and run with it all the way to Italy.

Even ostensibly straightforward things like popcorn, served warm and crisp, are better than you might hope to expect given they're a freebie served to every table. And roasted almonds, toasted shatteringly fresh, come with a dusting of rosemary salt which means you absolutely can't stop until the bowl is clean.

But joy is to be found at all stages of the menu. A house-baked mini pretzel comes alongside a blinding white taramasalata which is easily the equal of anything served at Quality Chop House or indeed Parsons, two of the finest tarama-peddlers in the capital.

Picked crab salad was again, as you might expect from the people involved with Parsons, a masterclass in how to make the most of the best British brown crab. Spiked with chilli and dressed with a lovely balanced vinaigrette, it was just about as good a crab salad as you could hope for. Plenty of the good stuff, too, for £19.

You know a bit of beef is high quality when even cold it tastes great. And although you couldn't tell at first, tagliata had an extremely generous amount of it, hidden under a layer of rocket and shaved parmesan, all adding up to a very enjoyable secondo. Foccacia, studded with slices of potato, was a variation I'm now very much converted to. A Puglian thing, apparently.

Last of the savoury dishes - though definitely not least - was a little pot of salmon roe with superb warm blini, which I think lasted about 30 seconds before it had all been polished off. I'm increasingly coming round to the idea that salmon roe is - in most cases - preferable to "real" caviar, the latter's return very rarely living up to the outrageous price point it usually demands. Of course, if anyone disagrees with this hypothesis I'm more than willing to accept any amount of top-end caviar if you feel like trying to change my mind.

The only item that didn't impress very much were these gildas, the anchovy element being rather dry and mealy, indicating perhaps they'd been sitting around a while or just didn't utilise very good anchovies. Unfortunately - for Baudry Greene, not me - I'd just come back from the anchovy capital of Catalonia, L'Escala, so I'd been a bit spoiled in this department in recent days. The pickled chilli was nice though.

We were told that the kitchen was headed by professional pastry chefs, and so the quality heart-meltingly lovely honey cake, layered with cream and biscuit and topped with honeycomb, made perfect sense. Just as good was a rhubarb millefuille, which boasted a bewildering number of techniques, from rhubarb jam to stewed rhubarb to vanilla custard, all held together by fantastic light layers of caramelised puff pastry.

The bill, which included a bottle of Muscadet, came to £56pp, absolutely bang in the middle of what you should be paying for this quality of operation in 2024, and we left very happy indeed. In fact, we would have left very happy indeed even without the couple of home made choc ices they sent us on our way with, one prune and Armagnac and one involving cherries I think, which I mention both in the interests of full disclosure (you tend to be on good terms with owners of restaurants you never stop lavishing praise on) and also because they were bloody brilliant - a reason to go back to all by themselves.

Perhaps Baudry Greene was always going to be good. Those in charge were hardly about to have suddenly lost their ability to run a solid operation, and I was hardly about to turn my nose up at their efforts. But the place is notable not just for being incredibly successful on its own terms but also for being a genuine sidestep from its sister restaurants, despite clearly exploiting the talents for sourcing, cooking and service that are in the family tradition. It is, in short, another great place in which to spend your time and money in the capital.


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