5-7 Blandford Street
London W1U 3DB
Tel: 020 7486 9696
Food type: Modern European
Food rating: 5/10
Nearest tube: Bond Street
Website: L’Autre Pied
(Editor’s note: In the 2009 Michelin Guide, L’Autre Pied was awarded the much awaited 1 Michelin Star)
It seems that I can only write positive reviews on my blog. Even mediocre critiscm is greeted with ‘rabid fans’ writing scathing comments. I emphasize the apostrophes as I have a suspicion that this could be the owner himself. Anyways, ploughing strongly on – this is the review of my recent visit to L’Autre Pied.
I’ll be honest with you here – I approached my visit to L’Autre Pied with huge trepidation. For those who are unaware, L’Autre Pied is the sister restaurant to the 2* Pied-a-Terre. The name is a big giveaway. L’Autre of course is French for ‘the other’. Personally, I would never had thought about visiting as I had a less than stellar experience at their flagship restaurant back in July. However, having read some positive reviews and having been convinced by a fellow blogger I decided to bite the bullet and give this little cafe-that-could a chance.
The restaurant is located on Blanford road, a good 10 minutes walk from Bond Street station. J and I seriously underestimated the transfer time from the tube station and as a result we were struggling to keep our 6.30 pm booking. We had difficulty locating the Blanford street. This was not helped by the horrible weather. If it doesn’t rain in England, it pours.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were warmly greeted by the staff. The dining room is sleek and minimalist with wooden floors and mahagony tables & chairs. Like big brother, the tables are spaced closely together. This is to be expected from as the dining room itself is relatively small. Napkins on each table were of the muslin (cheese) cloth variety. Flowers were the theme of the restaurant with the green walls embraced by paintings of flowers.
Three menus are available for our perusal – the mandatory ala carte, a 7 course tasting menu and a smaller 4 course ‘taste of autumn’ menu. Items on the ALC menu are individually priced with starters ranging from £9.50 – £15.50 (mostly under £10), Mains between £16.95 – £21.95 (mainly £19.95) and desserts between £7 – £9.50. In addition they have a menu du jour priced at £17.95 for 2 courses and £20.95 for 3 courses. Indeed, the focus of this restaurant is on delivering ambitious cooking at decent prices.
Bread was a choice of white or multigrain roll, served with salted French butter. Bread was of good quality and baked on premise – which shows you the level of ambition of the restaurant. (6/10)
Our first course was first presented as a bowl of lentils, pearl onions and the goats milk. The beetroot veloute was poured from a little jug. The veloute had the natural sweetness of the beetroot which was matched by the acidity of the balsamic lentils. The mild smoked goats milk added a calming influence to the dish. While this dish was pleasant, I felt that there was plenty of room for refinement. The beetroot veloute was lacking body which would have elevated it to become something special. In addition, there was a slight disbalance between the acidity of the lentils and the sweetness of the beetroot. (4/10)
The fish course came in the form a poached fillet of silver sea bream. The fish, which was correctly cooked, sat on top of a bed of white beans (cannellini) and accompanied by a puree of butternut squash and vanilla. The addition of vanilla to the butternut squash was interesting although I found it very hard to pick out but the faintest taste of it. Just as well because the sea bream is a relatively delicate fish and would not have made a good vehicle for a large quantity of vanilla. The addition of the toasted pumpkin seeds was inspired as it added both nuttiness and texture to the dish. Unfortunately, both J and I found the white beans to be oversalted (which is quite hard a feat for me) and a fraction undercooked which was a shame as all other components of the dish, particularly the fish, was executed flawlessly. (5/10)
Foie Gras was served pan fried on a bed of onion lyonnaise which was gently flavoured with sage. The foie was well cooked and season although I would have preferred it to be a fraction more caramelised, but this is just a personal preference. The idea of this dish was to introduce a wide range of textures and temperatures. Accompanying the hot seared foie was the cold pear and star anise sorbet as well as an Earl Grey and honey jelly served at room temperature, both garnished with star anise sugar. The idea here is to try the liver with the different combinations on the plate and they worked relatively well. (6/10)
A breast of mallard (a substitute for the patridge) was roasted pink and was paired with the classical combination of savoy cabbage and lardons. Also included was a crisped up leg of the bird. The shallot fondant sat on top of a quenelle of champ (mashed potato mixed with spring onions). The mallard was finished off with a drizzle of game jus. The game jus was slightly over-reduced, with a hint of bitterness. Again this was a huge shame as the dish was well composed and other components of the dish showed good cooking technique with good timing of the mallard breast, light and fluffy mash and well cooked cabbage. (6/10)
Cheese was a fixed selection served on a black slate board. This consisted of Fleur de Marquist, St. Maure and Comte, accompanied by quince ketchup and crackers. This was enjoyable without being memorable. (5/10)
A very nice pre-dessert of chocolate mousse topped with coffee creme, vanilla foam and nougat crumble. The chocolate mousse was smooth, its flavour highlighted by the coffee creme. The nougat crumble added much needed texture to an otherwise soft dessert. Again, pleasant but not memorable. (5/10)
Our dessert for the night was a deconstructed crumble. The apple and blackberry was layered by bayleaf scented custard and warm pisachio crumble, topped off by the blackberry sorbet. This was an interesting dish – the bayleaf custard offering some grassy notes to the tartness of the apple and blackberry combination. The sorbet contained plenty of blackberry flavour although I am unconvinced with its addition – I think a creamier iced treat such as vanilla or milk ice cream would have been a better fit for this dish. (5/10)
A final serving of petit fours accompanied our tea to conclude our meal. This came in the form of very capable pistachio macaroon, salted chocolate and blackcurrant jelly. These were well made and very enjoyable indeed. (6/10)
Overall, this was a thoroughly capable meal highlighted by high quality, seasonal ingredients and well thought out dishes. No ridiculous amounts of foam or crazy combinations here. Service was pleasant, relaxed and friendly. Our server was helpful, informative and funny, making our night totally enjoyable. It has been widely tipped that L’Autre Pied would earn a Michelin star when the 2009 guide is released. Judging from my experience, the food falls just short of that coveted star. The cooking here shows great ambition and technique which was let down by the occasional slip during the busy dinner service. If they can avoid the odd slip, then I am sure the makings are there for it to receive that star.
p/s The toilets here deserve special mention simply because to get there you need to navigate one of the steepest stairwells imaginable.