LONDON, U.K, Nov. 29, 2014 – Pied a’ Terre has been a groundbreaking Michelin starred restaurant for several decades now, maintaining its treasured culinary status while some of the great chefs of England have made their way through its hallowed kitchen.
Now 23 years into its run as one of London’s finest restaurants Head Chef Marcus Eaves continues the tradition of outstanding Haute Cuisine in a lovely atmosphere where innovation and a fabulous wine list create special evenings that linger in the memory for years.
Indeed, a full 8 years after last eating here the brilliance of that meal continues to shine with a clarity of vision that makes it intimidating to return. It’s clear now there was no need for concern, as Pied a’ Terre continues its multiyear reign as one of London’s finest, coziest, and most innovative restaurants.
Beautifully situated just north of Mayfair in the Fitzrovia district of London, in an elegant neighborhood at 34 Charlotte Street, Pied a’ Terre is but a narrow three story townhouse of painted brick, with a large picture window out front and simple sign on the awning over the door.
The downstairs is divided into a lovely antechamber of several tables in the romantic space under the window and a larger elegant dining room of only 10 tables stretching the length of the back of the townhouse.
Upstairs is an intimate bar area, the wine cellar, and a gorgeous private dining room for 12 that could be the modern boardroom of any fashionable corporation.
The banquets in the romantic antechamber by the window and throughout the restaurant are green leather, punctuated by red leather chairs opposite them, and burgundy wainscoting under cream colored walls.
A shattered stained glass sculpture by George Papadopoulos dominates the window of the front room, and fine art from Sir Peter Blake and Claire Chapman adorns the walls of the restaurant, all in an easy atmosphere of refined comfort and serenity.
Owner and legendary proprietor David Moore opened the doors in 1991 with Head Chef Richard Neat who took the restaurant to two Michelin stars before departing in 1996. Chef Tom Aiken continued the award winning tradition, garnering two Michelin stars at age 26 and maintaining them until 2000.
The baton was passed to the widely acclaimed Shane Osborne, who became the first Australian to win a Michelin star, and was the head chef at my last stellar meal here in 2006.
Shane passed the head chef position to his protégé and current Head Chef extraordinaire Marcus Eaves in 2011, who has continued to maintain the Michelin star status of the restaurant while upholding a grand culinary tradition of over two decades.
Marcus had served as head Chef at Pied a Terre’s sister restaurant L’Autre Pied in nearby Marlyebone, bringing it to acclaim while earning his first Michelin star there in 2007 at the tender age of 27. Over the years the cream of David Moore’s cadre of chefs and their assistants has found their way into the heart of the English culinary scene.
This would include two Michelin starred Chef Martin Burge at Whatley Manor’s The Dining Room outside of Bath, who worked at Pied a’Terre under Chef Richard Neat.
So the expectations are grand, the culinary bloodlines are superb, the setting is glorious, and the restaurant is legendary, as an exciting evening long in the making unfolds.
What heritage David Moore has created and maintained Marcus Eaves lives up to and surpasses as he executes a wonderfully innovative and confident menu of brilliant Haute Cuisine that assures Pied a’ Terre’s place in the firmament of London’s best restaurants for years to come.
Amongst Chef Eaves many innovations is a roof top herb garden freshly harvested on a daily basis, as well as a full vegetarian ala carte and tasting menu, in keeping with an expanding demand for high end vegetarian cuisine.
Today matched sets of a vegetarian and a more traditional chef’s select tasting menu make for a cutting edge presentation of the best of the finest instincts of one of England’s top chefs. It does not disappoint.
An opening round of champagne is a perfect example of the very knowledgeable Sommelier Manu Hardonniere taking a firm and confident hand, serving both a rapturous Bauchet Rose
as well as a sublime but dryer Sanger Blanc de Blanc 2008.
The bread is simply heavenly and a series of amuse bouche are a perfect complement to the champagne.
Service is discreet, polished and highly personable, with an exceptionally well trained staff guiding the course of the evening seamlessly.
Salad of summer vegetables and smoked duck breast with a garlic mayonnaise and Girole mushrooms is fantastic, paired with a lovely vegetarian course of mushroom and truffle soup with creamed orzo pasta.
Fillet of South Coast plaice with cauliflower puree, smoked eel, coco beans and watercress is brilliant, perfectly cooked, and devoured ravenously.
While portions are somewhat petite, the originality of each dish’s presentation and the depth and variety of vegetarian offerings throughout the evening are significant and impressive.
Buttered golden cauliflower with white beans, samphire, watercress, and horseradish is a fabulous, delicate taste combination.
Marinated pineapple potatoes with Piquillo peppers, Grelot onions, and cracked wheat in a red pepper sauce is a delightful surprise, alive with texture and cross currents of flavor.
Roasted saddle of Yorkshire hare with walnuts, blackberries, quince and Cavolo Nero is outstanding, the game moist and tender, the sauce stirring and tart.
It is a perfect match for the next course of roasted breast of grouse with figs cooked in brown sugar, celeriac, comfit shallots and bread sauce, a sumptuous triumph of rich meaty flavor in exquisite juicy surroundings.
The meal is accompanied with a stellar Mazis-Chambertin Harmand Geoffroy Burgundy Grand Cru 2006, an outstanding choice which complements the food perfectly even as it adds a touch of romance to the proceedings.
The vegetarian main course, a sweet onion and mushroom tart with buttered spinach and a shallot and Douglas fir puree, is rich, full bodied and exceptionally tasty, the mushrooms meaty and plump, the onions moist and firm.
Pan fried fillet of Loch Duart Salmon with langoustines punctuated with shaved fennel is simply wonderful, crisp exterior, firm and tender inside, a fitting climax to an expeditionary journey through modern English and vegetarian culture.
As with any truly fine meal a cheese course of distinction and style is called for, and the cheese cart at Pied a Terre delivers with outstanding regional and continental fromage of great acclaim and provenance.
A series of extraordinary deserts follow, a Tulameen Raspberry and Lemon millefeuille, a caramel parfait, a strawberry, grape and elderflower trifle, and a valrhona chocolate mousse, all with a delicacy and balance that make them lovely finales to a grand affair, followed by coffee and the inevitable Petit Fours.
Reservations are a must, but the experience is so unique as to make this a special occasion restaurant worth planning for, especially if visiting London for a week or so. Lucky residents can enjoy it more frequently, and lunch is always a grand bargain at this and many other restaurants of this caliber.
Dinner will run $150 per person for a full 8 course tasting menu, not including wine, and the 8 course Chefs Menu will run closer to $225 per person. Ala carte menus of a starter and a main course are around $100 a person, while the 4 course prix fixe lunch menu is an exceptional deal at only $50 per person.
Pied a’ Terre holds a special place in the hearts of London foodies, not just for the legacy of chefs and Michelin stars that David Moore has brought over the years, but even more for Chef Marcus Eaves vibrant hold on the present and stirring rejuvenation of all the things that have made Pied a’ Terre great over the years.
While sister restaurant L’Autre Pied in Marleybone creates its own scene under the rising star of Head Chef Andy McFadden, who was trained at Pied a’ Terre, Chef Eaves keeps the home fires burning bright right here on Charlotte Street.
It’s comforting to know that London will always have, for the time being, at least two willfully revolutionary temples of truly fine dining, where reinvention is the mother of innovation.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal