If you enjoy full-on fine dining experiences, but tend to visit London’s hottest new restaurants and have never even considered Pied-à-Terre, then you’re missing out. Located on the vibrant Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, where an eclectic parade of Michelin-starred gems rub shoulders with trendy chain restaurants like Wahaca, this is one of the city’s most legendary dining experiences.
And I don’t say ‘legendary’ lightly. Having opened in 1991 by restaurateur David Moore, Michelin star glory, a devastating fire and the exit of three acclaimed head chefs followed, including co-proprietor Tom Aikens, who became the youngest chef ever to be awarded 2 Michelin stars, leaving after being rumoured to have injured a fellow chef in a fit of rage. This restaurant’s past is as colourful as some of the contemporary art lining its walls.
Pied-à-Terre has been through a lot, but you’d never know it to look at her. Located in a smart townhouse, a recent refurbishment and a flurry of positive reviews has put the restaurant back on the radar for those who weren’t a faithful friend to it, whilst alerting a fresh audience to the prowess of head chef Marcus Eaves who has worked alongside the likes of Martin Blunos, John Burton-Race and Claude Bosi. A true culinary hybrid, Eaves went on to head up Pied-à-Terre’s sister restaurant, L’Autre Pied in Marylebone prior to taking the helm here in 2011 and receiving a Michelin star just five months later.
Whilst there are much more aesthetically-pleasing dining rooms in London, for once it’s a relief to concentrate more on the food, or at least when it’s as good as this. We selected the gold-standard ten course Chef’s Menu (£145) with selected wine pairings by sommelier Mathieu Germond. Each dish was impressively delicate and technically prepared, but above all breathtakingly flavoursome and, unlike other Michelin-starred tasting menus I’ve sampled, Eaves is confident enough to make each course defined in its own right, taking accents from different international cuisines and delivering a faultless culinary journey which holds your interest throughout.
Although the restaurant has a classical French backbone, the Chef’s Menu delighted us with tastes of England, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Favourite dishes included a fragrant opening course of Cornish crab with marinated scallop, Granny Smith apple, kohlrabi and verjus gel; a main of melt-in-the-mouth Morrocan-inspired Iberico pork loin with white anchovy, hummus, pork cromesqui and soft chickpea and cumin falafel; and a textured dessert of chewy chocolate brownie, unctuous caramel parfait, vanilla ice cream, heady whiskey Crème Anglaise and caramel popcorn. I couldn’t leave a thing.
As the name of the restaurant might suggest, the two-part dining room is extremely intimate, a fact not reflected by the relatively large front of house team buzzing about discreetly and ready to fulfil your every whim. Don’t even dream of placing your napkin on your lap. As owner of both Pied-à-Terre and L’Autre Pied, the hands-on Moore now employs a staff of almost seventy, with whom he has instilled the philosophy, ‘We are only as good as our last meal’. Having worked his way up from being a waiter at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, he knows only too well how vitally important service is to the overall experience.
Pied-à-Terre is special and possesses a self-assurance that might make you talk in hushed tones to your date without quite knowing why. That is, until David Moore, wearing a flamboyant shirt, makes an appearance and, schmoozing with television personalities on the next table, instantly lightens the mood. The busier the dining room becomes the more relaxed it feels and two and a half hours and ten sublime courses later, you’ll feel like you’ve been initiated into a rather exclusive dining club, for I guarantee you will return.
Pied a Terre, 34 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 2NH. For more information, including menus and reservations, see the website.