Restaurant Review: Pied a Terre, Charlotte St in London
Reading through my notes after a visit to London’s Michelin star eatery, Pied a Terre, leaves me salivating. It is not often that words can conjure up atmosphere and smells but that is the effect this restaurant had on me.
I visited one February Friday evening and sampled the incredibly delicious and creative eight course tasting menu after a warm welcome and glass of light, sweet and tasty Champagne. Immediately the restaurant envelopes you in a cosy hug with its dark wood and copper tiled walls and relaxing low lighting. Our table was located in the front room of the restaurant, which houses just 4 two seater tables, offering a cosy atmosphere for the night. Happy customers were chatting away – not inducing a rowdy noise – but relaxed, happy chatter, while we browsed the menus. Warming winter ingredients were present on the menus alongside delicate white fishes and game, while fruits and nuts played an important role.
While sipping on our Champagne, which was going down nicely, my guest, Nick, and I sampled some delicious canapés consisting of a wonderfully crisp squid ink cracker with fish cream and a hot parmesan puff with mushroom sauce. We also sampled an appetiser of a light, foamy artichoke cream sat on a parsley oil with parsnip crisps sat on top. The flavours and crispness of each were perfection and I could only imagine what the rest of the evening would bring. The menu itself didn’t give much away in terms of how the food would be prepared, simply naming the main ingredients, meaning it was nice to know what to expect and what not to expect.
Course one – ‘chestnut, smoked bacon, watercress and truffle’ – consisted of a light soup packed with rich flavour. An extremely elegant first course in terms of presentation, taste and execution, this was a winner for me. Chunks of bacon sat in a delicate foamy soup, while finely sliced truffle rested on top. The smell was lovely and and the tastes were full while the texture was very gentle – an amazing start to the menu.
Course two – ‘scallops ceviche, cucumber, balsamic and dill’ – was a cold dish that surprised, yet delighted me. A take on the traditional coastal Latin American favourite of cured fish, two beautifully light Scottish scallops sat on the plate complemented with compressed cucumber and a delicate, refreshing balsamic gel. At first I thought the gel was lemonade flavoured with its unique and fresh flavour – this was the winning element on the dish for me as it brought together the light textures and flavours.
Course three – ‘celeriac, apple, walnut, belper knolle, truffle’ – was another cold dish and similar to the previous course in terms of its light and refreshing nature. This consisted of a celeriac salad sat in a consommé with grated truffle on top. The pickley, fragrant flavours were offset by the rich, dark truffle, which was much needed to balance out the dish. The large thin slices of celeriac in a bowl with a fork and spoon were quite difficult to eat with grace but that is very minor in comparison to the deliciousness of the dish as a whole.
Course four – ‘south coast cod, purple sprouting broccoli, miso butter, black quinoa, sea herbs’ – was full of lovely textures. A tasty, plump piece of cod was fried making it nice and crispy on one side and it was full of salty flavour. The quinoa had a great bubble like texture of little pieces that burst in my mouth and the dish as a whole was a delicious way to enjoy cod. It was another light and fresh dish that showcased classic cooking and was full of finesse and elegance.
Course five – ‘fallow deer, fregola sarda, black pearl curry, red pepper ketchup, aubergine’ – was a dish of fuller flavours. The star of the show was the beautifully tender and mouthwatering piece of meat. It was accompanied well with a sweet red pepper ketchup and creamy fregola sarda side (tiny semolina dough balls.) The black pearl curry was not to my liking as it had a slightly burnt taste but overall I liked this dish, the flavours were full and rich while somehow being light and fruity at the same time.
Course six was a choice of cheeses of which I opted for a delicious and nutty ewe’s milk, Brie and Stilton. Poppy seed and parmesan crackers sat on a specially made cracker tree and were lovely and crisp as well as being a tasty bed for the creamy, strong and delicious cheeses. Course seven was a pre dessert of blood orange sorbet – a great palate cleanser following the cheese and refreshingly sweet and light.
We then had a welcome break and were visited by head chef Andy McFadden, who has been at the helm since October 2015 after heading up sister restaurant, L’Autre Pied from 2007. The Irish chef spent a year broadening his culinary horizons in Holland on the Belgian border and returned to head up Pied a Terre. Pied a Terre was established in 1991 by David Moore who has appeared on BBC2’s ‘The Restaurant’ as an inspector, and head chef, Richard Neat, who gained two Michelin stars by 1996. Tom Aitkens took the helm in that year and retained both stars until his departure in 1999. since then Australian Shane Osborn and Marcus Eaves have headed up the kitchen before current leader, Andy McFadden, took the reigns.
Back to the food and on to course eight, which consisted of pineapple, coconut, lime and sake and was an eye catching and pleasantly sweet end to the meal. A juicy piece of cooked pineapple sat alongside a tangy lime sorbet and a soft coconut mallow. A delicate foam sat on top of the pineapple and the dish as a whole showed off some great cooking techniques and flavour pairings. To fully finish off our meal we were handed a dominoes box, which contained some delightful, delicate and delicious chocolate and jelly treats to enjoy.
The restaurant has close connections to the art scene with contemporary art playing a role in the look and feel of the restaurant. It has hosted artists in residence and established Pied Art Club alongside art dealer, Harvey Bayer. For larger meals or events you can hire out the restaurant for 40 guests, a private dining room for 13 or the private bar for 25.
In a nutshell
The evening was a very enjoyable one. Eating great food in a welcoming, cosy and sophisticated environment is a delightful way to spend a Friday evening. Our waiter was very knowledgable and it was nice to meet the chef and chat about his menu and journey. The food highlights great skill and is all enjoyable to sample even if you don’t like one ingredient. The execution, flavours and presentation of every dish was impeccable.
Address: 34 Charlotte St, London W1T 2NH / 020 7636 1178