I LOVE returning to special restaurants that I haven’t been to in years. Dating back to 1991, Pied a Terre is a Fitzrovia institution, and whilst we’re all about chasing the newest restaurant or that latest pop-up, it’s really reassuring to know some restaurants really can stand the test of time.
It’s an intimate dining room with a beautiful skylight, and although our booking was at 7 pm, it didn’t really start to fill up with other guests until about 8 pm. It was a mixture of special occasions (we sang happy birthday twice) and expense accounts, but it was also really nice to see the rapport the waiters had with a regular seated next to us.
Pied a Terre is the kind of old-school Michelin star you’d expect (they currently hold 1 but have held up to 2 in the past), but the food still feels fresh thanks to head chef Asimakis Chaniotis and his subtle Greek influence. You can order from the a la carte menu, go for a 10 course tasting menu (£105) or leave it to the chef (£145).
We went for the 10 courses, which kicks off with an exciting selection of ‘snacks’. Three types of bread (dipped in Greek extra virgin olive oil, naturally), ‘scrambled eggs’ with oregano and feta artfully presented in a duck egg shell and delivered in their egg box on a bed of hay and bitesize pieces of smoked eel and caviar cups. A clever pot of olive ‘soil’ hid breakfast radishes which had been planted inside. So far, all very entertaining – exactly how you’d want a tasting menu to begin.
Our first course was an absolute vision. Artfully presented leaves had been fashioned into a crescent shape, dotted with edible flowers and topped with a courgette flower – but this was no run of the mill green salad. Pungent blobs of aged blue cheese and cured ham were nestled within. Next up was seabream ceviche, sliced impossibly thinly, swimming in a flavoured broth and green lime and basil oil, topped with smoked almonds which added texture.
Taking their time we were presented with dish after dish – including cuttlefish, paired with winter tomatoes served with a thick rim of pureed spinach. The last of the seafood courses (and our favourite!) was a succulent piece of tandoori john dory, served alongside palm hearts (which are a little like white asparagus) and razor clams in the shell with a little shredded baby gem lettuce.
Perhaps the most traditional dish served was a plate of Oxford Black and Sandy pork loin, served pink with oh-so-sweet potato pomme puree (or silk smooth mash to you and me) and sprout leaves. A light cheese plate with black charcoal crackers was studded with Pedro Ximenez jelly which took us nicely into dessert territory.
It’s very rare when my favourite course of the evening is dessert, but the plantation pineapple rum baba was the absolute nuts. It’s served with olive oil, a lurid green coriander ice-cream and clotted cream. Sounds bonkers but just totally worked. We’d happily pop back for this alone given half the chance.
We love a wine flight (I mean, who doesn’t) but there are two on offer at Pied a Terre. Keep things classic if you prefer (£95) but we’d recommend the ‘discovery’ flight, priced at £65 which aims to make you think twice. The bottle won’t be revealed until AFTER each course and we had a hella lot of fun guessing the country and grape. We were pretty chuffed to say we got most of them right (or thereabouts) and it really added a bit of theatre to the evening and was definitely a highlight.
The whole experience took 4 hours (and we didn’t even stay for tea & coffee) so this is most definitely still special-occasion territory.
We hope to see Pied a Terre around for many more years to come!