Completing the set
My friend Tim and I (an actual other person called Tim, not me having a mild ego crisis) were on the lookout for somewhere nice to go for a pre-Christmas catch up a few weeks ago. My mind went straight to looking at the menu for Pied à Terre as it has been on my “list” of restaurants to visit ever since I’d made a visit to L’autre Pied (a now sadly-historic sister restaurant to Pied à Terre) which was one of the first starred restaurants I went to in London. This was “PB” (pre-blog) so there is no review to signpost you to on this. I did however blog on a visit to a pop-up called ’Pied Nus’ that the same team ran briefly, which focussed on raw and barely-cooked food. In this blog, I noted that I just needed to visit Pied a Terre in order to complete the set, little did I know that it would take me eight years to do so – still better late than never as they say…
Happy birthday, Pied à Terre!
Pied à Terre is set in the heart of Fitzrovia and run by restauranteur David Moore. It was founded 30 years ago and has launched the careers of many famous chefs, with names such as Tom Aitken and Marcus Eaves. The resturant claims to be London’s longest running independent Michelin starred restaurant, having received its first star shortly after opening in 1991 – and during its 30 year tenure it has at times held two stars. The restaurant’s focus has always been French cuisine, with David Moore having worked with Raymand Blanc at Le Manoir for six years. Current head chef, Asimakis Chaniotis, continues the French theme in his work but tries to sneak in little hints and nods to his Greek heritage along the way.
We were also very lucky to be visiting the restaurant at this time as they were running a special menu to celebrate their 30 year birthday (happy birthday!) and to mark the occasion had curated a menu which featured some of the courses its previous head chefs had showcased at the restaurant over its 30 years. It felt somewhat of a ‘greatest hits’ menu – perfect!
Before I dive into the meal a few words on the setting and the ambience. The dining room was beautifully laid out as you’ll see from the photo that I took (see above). We were a little worried that what with the problems going on right now that the restaurant would be deserted, but we were pleasantly surprised that within an hour of us starting our meal nearly all tables were taken. The staff all wore masks when serving us and we were seated with suitable distance from each other that we could be comfortable social distancing was taking place. I appreciate that some people will still feel uncomfortable attending restaurants in the current climate, but all I can say is that I felt that every practicable measure had been taken to make this a safe dining experience without removing the niceties and affectations that come with a Michelin-starred meal. With the hard time that hospitality has had over the last couple of years I remain very keen to do whatever I can to support them – and spending my money enjoying their delicious offerings is one way that I can do that!
After some canapés we got into the first course of our menu which was a choice, we both opted for Tom Aitken’s Foie Gras and Artichoke Terrine served with Celeriac, Black Truffle and Balsamic. This was a wonderfully decadent dish and felt delightfully hedonistic – I mean what isn’t there to like here? Combining foie gras richness with truffle earthiness and then contrasted with the slight bite and sweetness of the balsamic reduction. Beautiful. A really clever note, I thought, was the crystals of sea salt which you got on top, which gave a little salty zing to the dish to give it an extra dimension. We had gone for the pairing wine combination for the meal and the wine selection was a bit of a curve ball here – classically you’d go for a sweet Sauternes with foie gras, but the head sommelier (Chanel Owen) got us really thinking by opting instead for a Fino Sherry from Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosia based in El Puerto di Santa Maria – I was immediately struck by how the salinity of this wine matched the salt on the terrine, but how that great acidity you get in Fino sherries was a great counterpoint to the richness of the foie gras. Bravo, Chanel!
Next up was Richard Neat’s John Dory served with Foie Gras, Peas and Potato Galette. The picture of the dish shows just how attractive this plate of food was, very cleverly presented and plated in this dramatic plate with an indent for the food to nestle in. We kept on with the foie gras theme in this dish as there was some fried foie gras atop the fish fillet, but there was also foie gras in the sauce which gave it an extra smattering of luxuriousness. The fish was absolutely splendid, with a beautiful colour on the skin as you can see in the photo. I was also really taken with the peas, the texture of them was lovely – so much crunch still to them and bags of sweet flavour to them. Very cleverly done. To serve with this dish was a 2019 Weißburgunder “Royale” (Pinot Blanc) from Weingut Von Winning in the Pfalz (Germany), which was a lovely wine with bags of fresh acidity there, but a little smattering of buttery breadth to it – in fact when I first tried it I got into my head it was a Chardonnay. Just a gem of a wine – I think I’ll be trying to get hold of some of this myself.
Time to move on to some meat with Asimakis’ Smoked Quail served with Celeriac, Confit Egg Yolk, Piedmont Hazlenuts and Black Truffle. There was a nice bit of theatre to this meal (those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I do like a little bit of the theatricals when dining) as this dish came in a nice bell glass to preserve the cherry wood smoke that had been used on the quail, which was released by the waiter and gave out a heavenly aroma (see video below). The quail was presented as a breast and a leg, which were both perfectly cooked. Again we had a bit of a recurring theme with an impressively large shaving of black truffle, but for me the things I really liked most were the egg yolk which when plunged into released itself over the plate and acted as a kind of delicious sauce to bind everything together, combined with the crunchy notes of the hazelnuts. Just lovely! The wine match for this course was another really interesting selection – a 2017 Garnacha from Agricola de Cadalaso (Madrid, Spain). A red wine coming from th Madrid area? You think straight away about soaring temperatures and think that this is going to be some big beast of a red, but this was fresh, elegant and delicate – how? Chanel explained that these wines are matured in terracotta pots (like qvevri) in the earliest wine-making production style, which helps preserve the freshness needed for this wine to work. It was beautiful – quite smoky with a touch of menthol to it. A great match for a really impressive plate.
As a French-inspired restaurant, the next course after the meat course was a cheese course, Vacherin Du Mont d’Or served with Apricot Jam, Celery and Lavoche. The cheese comes from the Jura and can only be made at certain times of the year. Over to the experts to explain what is so special about this cheese:
”Mont d’Or, also known as Vacherin de Joux and Vacherin du Haute-Doub, is available for only a few months of the year, produced between 15th August and 15th March, to be exact.
It’s made when Montbeliarde or French Simmental cows are brought down from their high summertime pastures in the Mont d’Or massif in the Haut Doubs area of the Jura mountains on the borders of Switzerland”Paxton and Whitfield’s Cheese Blog, “What is Mont D’Or?”, Nov 2020
It didn’t exactly look a picture on the slate, however you can just tell from the way it was oozing that it was going to be absolutely delicious and this was truly the case. In a nice little homage to his homeland [chef’s name] had prepared a nice apricot jam which balanced it out, with the celery giving a little something to crunch on in combination. For the wine we went to Hungry this time for a 2011 Késői Szüret (Late Harvest) Tokaji from the Tokaji Classic Winery, which was another clever choice – Chanel didn’t opt for an Aszu (a very sweet Tokaji made from botrytised grapes), but instead went for this more delicate wine, which was still sweet but didn’t have that unctuousness that would have potentially competed with the cheese. This was a nice, pretty accompaniment to the dish and worked really well.
Time for dessert! This came in the form of Shane Osborne’s Panna Cotta served with Red Wine Poached Pears, Pain D’épices and Fromage Frais. Again the prettiness of the dish was something to behold with the dainty snowflake like pastry on top just delightful. The panna cotta was rich and full of vanilla, as you would want and the poached pears gave it a nice fruitiness, but for me the genius here was the fromage frais ice cream – simultaneously fresh, clean, creamy and rich. This combination really worked and helped bring the whole dish together. Not a heavy pudding, but a beautifully elegant one. To match with this course we were served a glass of 2016 Niepoort LBV Port (Late Bottled Vintage) which worked for me – served slightly chilled, it was young and fresh enough to not overpower this pudding. Anything older or richer may have clashed, this was just at the right spot for me. Another win for Chanel!.
I was very impressed with this lunch. David and the team did an excellent job in trying circumstances. As mentioned above I feel very fortunate that we were able to try this ’greatest hits’ menu – when you look at the calibre of chefs that Pied à Terre has had over the last 30 years you can understand why David and the team have been able to maintain such an excellent standard. You can taste this menu as part of a limited run up until 15th January 2022. Get your skates on!
Personally, I was also pleased to have ’completed the set’ of David’s restaurants! Only trouble is I didn’t take my wife to Pied à Terre – so now I’m going to need to go back with her. Oh well…!