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Shining example of how to run a great restaurant

PUBLISHED: 08:33 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:41 07 September 2010

the green room

the green room

A visit to The Green Room with its passionate owners is sure to leave you hungry for more, reports VICTORIA PREVER Just as you can t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn t judge a restaurant by its sophisticated silver metallic flock wallpaper. It s am

A visit to The Green Room with its passionate owners is sure to leave you hungry for more, reports VICTORIA PREVER

Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you shouldn't judge a restaurant by its sophisticated silver metallic flock wallpaper. It's amazing though how a lick of paint and some well-placed spit and polish has turned this girl's head. Well, you do eat with your eyes and the décor definitely enhances the experience.

A whole load of TLC from two fledgling restaurateurs, (ex-fashion stylist) Kelly O'Keefe and her (French) fiancee Laurent Richer, has transformed a dingy old cafe on Broadhurst Gardens into sexily clad swan The Green Room. One wall glimmers under the designer paper, another is covered in cream hued painted brickwork whilst the street-facing wall is (girlie favourite) shocking pink.

An imposing chandelier hangs from the ceiling. Dark wood tables and chairs are topped with silver chargers, thick white napkins and shiny clean glasses. It's all a bit Elle Decoration and makes me feel rather like Grumpy and I should have made a bit more sartorial effort for the occasion.

As O'Keefe's fashion styling background shines through, so does her husband-to-be's restaurant pedigree. Parisienne Richer has an impressive CV. He trained at Vatel Hotel School in Paris and has honed his service skills at establishments as salubrious as the city's Hotel de Crillon and later at London's Landmark and Soho Hotels. He's even spent time under the watchful eye of (soon-to-be local) restaurateur Gordon Ramsay at Maze.

Grumpy and I kicked off our festive season there on Christmas Eve. The restaurant - which is still in its infancy - only opened at the end of November and, even though there are only an exclusive forty or so covers on the ground floor (and a snug handful more in the basement) we were rattling around a little.

Despite the decor, it does feel like turning up at a friend's house - unpretentious and welcoming. O'Keefe and Richer run the dining room between them. A casually clad Richer took our coats, seated us at a generously sized table and brought us each a complimentary Kir Royale and some home-baked bread. The menu's a decent size - nine starters and the same number of mains with some interesting dishes, but nothing too outre. The chef - ex of Queen's Park's Salusbury Dining Room - has kept things reasonably simple.

There's a nice range of French and Italian classics - beef bourguignon, steak with rocket salad and parmesan, fish stew; and some twists on classics - tuna bresaola, rack of lamb with mint butter bread crumbs. Spoilt for starter choices, Grumpy's only gripe was that there were too few vegetarian main courses on offer. Richer was happy to provide a main course sized starter.

Through greedy mouthfuls of excellent focaccia, I ordered mille feuille of chicken and pistachio terrine. Grumpy's goats' cheese souffle was twice cooked rather than the more risky "get it to the table right now or it'll sink" traditional souffle.

From my side of the table it looked thrice cooked - like a sad deflated Yorkshire pud - but my husband told me it was delicious. The mouthful I managed to sneak off his plate was good and goaty tasting. The onion marmalade was sweet and sticky. My terrine was sliced and mille feuille'd with thin circular slices of toast and served with a pile of leaves dressed in an excellent dressing.

Service was smooth as silk and unlike anything else in the area. Silver chargers were lifted as soon as we'd ordered, surplus glasses gone as soon as we'd ordered our drinks. A jug of tap water provided without so much as a raised eyebrow. Why can't it always be like this in local restaurants?

Main courses were both excellent. My generous portion of roast monkfish rolled in Parma ham was served with perfectly cooked spinach, some excellent mash. Salsa verde cut through the oily richness. Grumpy's fish cakes were fat with crisp coats, a sun-dried tomato and lemon mayonnaise, some salad leaves in that excellent dressing and a plate of home-cut potato wedge-like chips. No complaints from his side of the table.

It being Christmas, we were duty-bound to eat dessert. O'Keefe raved about and sold the chocolate fondant to Grumpy. It was darkly chocolatey, but less than gooey fondant which had, I suspect spent a minute or more too long in the oven. Grumps made light work of it though.

My apple tart was a deconstructed affair. Small cubes of spiced, cooked apple, squares of puff pastry and a square of something deeply sugary sat alongside a light creme anglais.

Funky tunes from James Brown and a complimentary Ferrero Rocher accompanied our fresh mint tea, which was poured by Richer into immaculate, white bone china cups. Grumpy announced himself not to be grumpy. Richer and O'Keefe had pulled off a restaurant first.

It was an evening during which we'd felt pampered from start to finish. The surroundings and service at The Green Room show off Richer's hotel service background. The kitchen is almost there. A few tweaks and attention to detail should have them competing with the best in the area and beyond. West Hampstead is long overdue for a really great local like this.

These two are people who are passionate about what they do and it shows. They've already built a following in those local enough to have found them immediately. Early this year they'll be offering afternoon champagne teas - little sarnies, scones, cakes, the works; a Sunday brunch and a weekly Sunday roast. It's been a while since I've seen such passion and desire to please. I'll definitely be back.

o The Green Room, 182 Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead NW6 3AY

o Telephone: 020-7372 8188

o Food: HHHHI

o Service: HHHHH

o Open: Tuesday to Friday: 6.30pm until late; Saturday: Tea 2.30pm-5.30pm; Dinner 6.30pm until late; Sunday: 11am to 5pm.

o Cost: £68.96, including service, for three courses, coffee and two glasses of champagne and one glass

of wine.



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