A decade on from first walking through its doors, this year’s F’EAT gave us the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with Pied à Terre – one of the capital’s longest standing Michelin-starred venues and our first experiences of true fine dining. We recently returned to sample some Autumnal dishes and see if the French restaurant lived up to our fan-girl memories.
Michelin-starred restaurants have oftentimes gained a reputation for being grandiose and austere establishments with a strict dress code and sense of decorum. This does not hold true at Pied à Terre. With a name suggesting its own humility and residential cosiness, the restaurant manages to convey a relaxed, welcoming ease of being whilst leaving diners without any doubts about the calibre of its offering. The website states that the are “beyond dress code” and encourages guests to “dress to feel comfortable…wear whatever takes your mood!”
We take a moment to “Aww” at the pretty façade of the townhouse, strewn with flowering creepers and twinkling lights before bustling in from the cold. We shed our layers at the tiny maître d’ station before being shown through to an intimate room by the frosted front window. French grey banquettes, indigo walls and a lush dark red carpet create a timeless and sensual atmosphere, completed by cracked glass features and eye-catching copper tiling.
We take a seat and give in to the urge to remove our shoes as we are presented with three drinks books: red wine, white wine and cocktails. Already feeling a tad spoilt, we settle on the strong, bitter but balanced Alfred (Ceylan infused dark Rum, Amaretto, Cointreau, Cherry, Angostura) that arrives with a somewhat inelegant, protruding paper straw. The unexpected nature of this makes us chuckle but we enjoy this reality check and preference for comfort over prescribed style.
Soon after we’re seated, owner David Moore comes over to greet us with jovial chatter and easy charm. What always astounds us about David is the way in which he is able to instil an instant sense of ease in everyone he talks to. The ultimate host, his approach feels entirely natural and good-humoured even whilst he is effortlessly pre-empting your every need.
David departs and is swiftly followed by Julien, who informs us that chef Asimakis Chaniotis has prepared a small tasting menu for us. Our server for the evening, Manou, appears from behind him and sets down a selection of amuse bouche: bite-sized Macaroni Cheese scotch eggs with delicious truffle mayo “yolk”; fresh Smoked Salmon, Kimchi and Chipotle Sauce Tacos; and Scrambled Eggs with Feta Cheese and Oregano, adorably presented in egg shells nestled in a carton.
As we see-off the tasty morsels, our sommelier for the evening, Tom, steps forward to introduce himself. He explains that what they like to do at Pied à Terre is give diners each wine before their dish pairing comes out, so that they get a chance to try the wine both on its own and with the food. Only after the course is completed do they come back to talk about the pairing. With that, he pours us our first glass – a light and fresh white with front of mouth acidity and an elegant smoothness – chosen to accompany a Salad of Autumn Leaves, Turkish Figs, Crispy Walnut, Bleu des Causses, Jambon de Bayonne, Greek Verjus. The caramelised walnuts add a dark sweetness that tempers the bitterness of the nuts themselves and play with the beautifully ripe, pealed figs. The cheese is creamy and complex, working to coat the mouth alongside the flavourful ham to mellow the acid structure in the wine.
Our next wine has a strong aroma of peach and a fragrant, floral taste with sour notes of gooseberry. Curious and unrecognisable, we’re intrigued by its pairing with a creamed and frothy Warm Lentil and Root Vegetables Casserole, topped with delicate purple flowers and a crisp curly kale bouffant that adds crunch, umami and depth. The wine changes completely with the food, washing straight to the back and roof of the mouth with a boozy hit that ignites the belly. Whilst our first two glasses have been interesting with their delicious dishes, as drinks, we prefer them drunk on their own.
Julien returns with Pied à Terre’s “signature starter” of Celeriac, Autumn Truffle, Hazelnut and Confit Egg Yolk, finished off with black garlic consommé poured from a glass teapot at the table, and what a signature it is! The rich, soft globe of yolk has been showered in curls of parmesan and black truffle and rests atop a round of lightly aldente celeriac. Hazelnuts add a crunch and fatty fullness whilst the consommé brings deep earthy tones that harmonise with the truffle. A truly gorgeous dish, we would order this time and time again.
The wine has an almost hay-like scent and, whilst starting off with a bit of acidity, develops a rounded body and almost sweet finish. Once we’ve volunteered our tasting notes, Tom kindly adds to our thoughts, explaining that the savoury notes are because the Sémillon grape used is usually a blending grape. The vines are exposed to a lot of sunlight so ripen more for rounder flavours that pounce through and the treatment in oak gives it a woodiness and work with the earthier flavours in the dish.
Fun facts noted, we move on to our first red of the evening. This one is slightly jammy on the nose whilst remaining fragrant. Violet comes through on the palate and the mouthfeel is full without being long-lasting. The tender 120 Days Old St Bridges Chicken arrives in the guise of a slice of pork belly, with a charred, impossibly flavourful roscoff onion draped over it. Forest green rounds of an unintelligible but delicious sauce add a pop of colour and hide textually exciting puffs of pommes soufflées. Similarly to the signature starter, the dish is finished off at our table with the rich jus. Whilst some may think that poultry should be served with white wine, the strength of the flavour and the hint of liquorice warrant a red. The pairing with an Argentinean Petit Verdot is perfect, with the right body and depth, and its perfumed nature fitting with all the different aromas on the plate.
Savoury courses polished off, we head on to dessert with a quick stop-off for “pre-dessert” – a course we never previously knew existed and will now be demanding at every event we go to. This surprise treat comes in the form of Matcha Custard, Blackberry Espuma, Freeze-Dried Blackberries and Sugar Crumbs. Gelatinous and airy, the custard dissolves effortlessly on the tongue and tiny excitements of frozen berries prick up our palate. The wine pairing is also brilliant. What starts off with the smell of ocean spray with a light smoke and yellow stone fruit becomes sweet on the palate. However, when sipped with the accompanying course, the sweetness is diminished and the greener flavours of the wine – which we later find out is a Riesling from Western Australia – work with the matcha.
Sadly, we arrive at our final course and feel ourselves drinking our wine slower, so we don’t have to leave our cosy area too soon. Tom brings us a sweet, aromatic Muscat from high up in northern Chile where they let the grapes ripen on the vine longer in order for the sugars to come through more. Full of nectarine, apricot and honey, the syrupy sweetness is more than the previous wine but is not cloying. The dessert itself is a bit of a surprise and initially awakens our inner child with the presence of salty-sweet, toffee popcorn. The Tiramisu comprises a super sweet coffee-flavoured cream, pulled together with a tasty strawberry element. On its own, it is too saccharine for our palate but, oddly enough, when eaten in tandem with the Muscat, the wine sucks out the over-sweetness and allows the other flavours (in both dessert and wine) to sing out.
Tickled by our romp through a somewhat unexpected and delightfully fun menu, we settle into our herbal tea and munch away on our sweets of chocolate truffles with lychee, fruit jellies and perfect canelés. The evening has felt truly special, with effortless hospitality, a relaxed luxury and delicious pairings. Whilst the chef may have changed since our last sojourn here a decade ago, that timeless excellence and personable quality that we have always associated with Pied à Terre remains resolutely intact.
Tasting menus at Pied à Terre start from £105.00. A La Carte Menu starts at £65.00.
Pied à Terre, 34 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2NH