Monday 13 February 2012

Simon Rimmer’s Greens

Having previously written about Simon Rimmer’s omnivorous eatery Earle (see here), I thought it was about time I returned to Greens – the vegetarian restaurant that helped to establish the career, which has seen Simon develop into one of the country’s best loved celebrity chefs.

My wife was meeting up with her friend at nearby Albert’s, so with time to kill before my chauffeur services were required, I had set my heart on the Squirrel Pie special at The Rose Garden. Luckily, for the squirrel, it was closed. Luckily, for me, I managed to get a table at the ever-busy Greens around the corner. Mr. Squirrel got to live another day and the only killing of the day would remain time.

Dining alone with my thoughts but no one to talk to, I wanted something to nibble on whilst I waited and the Marinated Olives fitted the bill. They were good quality – firm, with strong olivey flavour.

When eating alone, the wait times between courses can seem to go on for eons. Entertaining myself with some people watching, earwigging and by taking pictures of the little fish bowl of flowers, I overheard a conversation at the next table.

Let me set the (typical Greens) scene, as I read it: the birthday boy was a twenty something post graduate, whose parents had said they would take him, the girlfriend, the brother and the grandparents out to celebrate.

Whilst mummy and daddy are proud of their well-educated son; mum is a little disappointed by his perpetually scruffy, unshaven appearance. Especially as he has turned up to a ‘nice restaurant’ wearing a faded band T-shirt, featuring some artsy student band I’ve never heard of (thus, making me feel old) and a grubby pair of Chuck Taylor’s.

Dad is embarrassed because his son is a *whispers* vegetarian *muffled cough* (Oh, the shame). So, he sits there, arms folded, stony look on his face - clearly embarrassed, annoyed and fearful that one of his mates from the pub may find out that he ate a meal without meat!

You can sense the cogs whirring, and then he pipes up, “What I don’t get is…” The family all lean in to listen - tell us more oh, wise one - “In a ‘normal’ restaurant you can get vegetarian ‘stuff’…” He ponders further… “So, why don’t these vegetarian places do meat? It’s not right!”

With that, my Deep-fried V Black Pudding with Mustard Mayo appetiser arrived. When I’ve had this dish before, both at Greens, Earle and at home the slices have been smaller but the chunkier pieces (as these were) are definitely the way to go! I do however prefer the mayo made with wholegrain mustard.

To start, I chose the wonderful Fried Haloumi with Pea, Mint & Caper Salad. Most impressively, the haloumi was meltingly gooey in the centre whilst the batter remained light and crisp. When I’ve tried this at home I either end up with firm rubbery cheese or burnt batter - if you know the secret, please tell me.

For my main, I opted for the larger portion of the signature Greens starter, Crispy Oyster Mushrooms with Chinese Pancakes, Plum Sauce, Spring Onion & Cucumber. When I first had this dish, a good few years ago, I loved it. This second time, I was not so keen (I think the mushrooms were a little over done). 

It’s a popular dish and I think the concept is great (I always enjoy food that requires a bit of interaction) so I decided to give it another chance – but for me, even after three goes, the jury is still out… the mushrooms somehow need to be ‘mushroomier’ (whatever that means).

The side of Chips were excellent but the accompanying Garlic Mayo had been in the pot or under the pass lights too long and had started to oxidise and form an unappetising skin (a minor niggle but one that’s easily rectified) – I still ate it and it tasted good!

Just as I was eyeing up the Chocolate & Salted Caramel Pot with a Brandy Snap on the dessert menu, a text notified me it was time to return to chauffeur duties so I had to call the bill – there’s always next time! 

For me, Greens is still one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Manchester - great atmosphere, service and food. Vegetarian or not... give it a go!

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