Pied à Terre
34 Charlotte Street
London W1T 2NH
Tel. 020 76361178
Food type: French
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road
I was in London for the day for an update course at the Royal Society of Medicine. Having paid £40 for my train ticket I thought it would have been a good idea to have dinner in London as well. Given the central location of the Royal Society of Medicine, there were options aplenty. I decided to revisit Pied à Terre where they have a new head chef in place. I have not revisited Pied à Terre since Marcus Eaves left (to head up the kitchen at Oblix) late last year. He has been replaced by the L’Autre Pied’s head chef, Andy McFadden who was previously sous chef under Shane Osbourne at Pied à Terre. I have eaten at L’Autre Pied when Andy was head chef there although I was not very impressed with the cooking there. It was certainly tasty and well cooked, but just lacking magic. I do appreciate however the fact that he was leading a kitchen where the chefs are generally less experienced and there is a greater restriction placed on food costing. Having given Andy sufficient time to settle back into his ‘new’ kitchen and imposing his cooking style on his menu, a revisit was very much called for.
We were first to arrive for our early (6pm) table. In fact for a good hour or so we were the only people in the main dining room. We were recognised by the the front of house staff upon arrival even with Matthieu not around this evening. I’m very impressed with the staff retention at Pied à Terre where most of the front of house staff were familiar faces. In London’s restaurant business, the turnaround of front of house staff is very high so David Moore must clearly be doing something right to be able to retain his staff. Restaurant manager Julien offered to arrange a surprise tasting menu for us which we took him up on.
First off we began with a duo of canapés. A game croquette was absolutely delicious with plenty of meaty flavour balanced by a nice herbal dip. The squid ink cracker with taramasalata was well made and tasty but if compared directly with the version served at the Square has the slight edge. I think that the addition of prawn powder for the version served at the Square is what makes it more impressive.
Next up was an amuse bouche of jerusalem artichoke served in a small glass. At the bottom of the glass was some light, floral parsley oil on top of it sat a light layer of jerusalem artichoke espuma. The dish was garnished with some crispy jerusalem artichoke chips. I really enjoyed the acidity that the parsley oil brought to the overall composition of the dish – a theme we will see recurring throughout our meal.
Our first proper course was a ricotta tortellini with wild mushrooms and lardo. I absolutely loved the addition of the lardo which added a nice meaty mouth-feel to the dish. The pasta was well made and the fresh herbs helped balance the overall richness of the dish.
One of the stars of the night was a dish of crab and celeriac. Hidden underneath the thin strips of celeriac was some picked crab meat. The dish was finished with a ‘consommé’ of celeriac and apple. What made this dish interesting was the combination of acidity from the consommé and celeriac which was balanced by the richness of some Belper Knolle cheese and the earthiness of grated black truffle. The crab was a welcome hidden surprise adding a pleasant sweetness to the overall composition of the dish.
Next was a classic risotto with Perigord black truffle. I don’t think there is much to elaborate about this dish – perfectly cooked, al dente rice and black truffle will always be a winning combination.
For our fish course, we were served a fillet of turbot with purple sprouting broccoli. The fish was well timed with a crisp exterior and I particularly liked the fact that the whole stem of the broccoli was used. Often times the tougher stalk is discarded but was cooked with a little attention and care which showed on the plate. The dish was finished with some sea vegetables.
The final savoury course was a squab pigeon which was presented at the table before being carved and plated in the kitchen. The pigeon was roasted with hay and lavender with the latter ingredient providing just the gentlest of perfume to the dish without making it taste like a bar of soap. This was paired with some caramelised fennel and prunes to give an overall richness to the dish. On the side was a very clever side-dish of braised pigeon legs topped with freshly shaved fennel.
After a nibble of cheese from the board, we were first treated to a pre-dessert of yoghurt & pomegranate. This was followed by my dish of the night pineapple and coconut. A slice of pineapple was beautifully roasted and refreshed with a grating of kaffir lime. To add interest to the dish, a crispy sugar tuile was added on top of the pineapple to give the dish an additional texture. The truth is, this dish was so good, I asked for a second portion of it.
Our final dish was a hazelnut parfait which was a pleasant deconstruction on a snickers bar. By this point, I was beyond full and only had a couple mouthfuls of the dish. My fiancee gleefully mopped up what remained.
I must say we were both very impressed with Andy’s cooking. His style clearly differs vastly from what Marcus was doing previously. There is an increased emphasis of incorporating acidity and freshness into most of his dishes. The nett result is cooking which is satisfying but does not leave you completely bloated at the end of the meal. Andy himself is a very humble guy. When asked whether he would be pushing for 2*s, his reply was that his aim was to simply produce the best food possible. Based on this meal, there is plenty to suggest that the cooking is heading in that direction.