15 October 2014
Our original intention when we moved back to the U.K. was to draw up a reasoned short list of restaurants that we liked and would need no excuse to return to, regardless of their location, but now we are coming to regret living out of London because of the large number of top-quality restos to be found there. We have visited some highly-rated restaurants in the capital and found them disappointing and frankly a waste of money, but when you come across one that outperforms its rating by miles and you are able to enjoy a meal so full of the wow factor and a dining experience that makes you want to return just as soon as possible, as happened on our visit to Pied-à-Terre, somehow the distance you travel to get there is immaterial. There was just one minor negative that struck us as soon as we entered the dining room, namely how underlit the room is. This quibble was soon overcome, though, by the way the spectacular dishes lit up the evening. We were immediately impressed by the attention to detail, with the properly-laid table even including individual olive forks, and this continued throughout the meal, for example it being understood that a spoon accompanying any dish with a sauce or purée is a good idea. The bread, treacle and foccaccia, was very good, our water glasses were refilled regularly, the serving staff interacted very well with the diners, and the terrific double act of the sommeliers, who served different wines to different tables on the same menu and got the diners to attempt to identify them, which was actually quite difficult with the "découverte" flight, put everyone in a receptive mood. Our amuse-bouches, salmon tartare and potato truffle croquette, were excellent and set the tone for what was to follow. Luscious mushroom and truffle soup with lovely creamy pasta, truffle, cured pork, super girolles and a touch of celery successfully cutting through the richness of the soup was followed by Cornish mackerel, fresh and tender as could be, in a shizo vinaigrette imparting a slightly oriental flavour to the dish, and proper giant couscous, mushrooms and divine baby squid. The next dish was scallops which were unbelievably tender with a hint of a taste of the sea, and accompanied by tomatoes marinated in balsamico, anchovy, mozzarella and baby rocket, and the taste of the scallop, mozzarella and anchovy together was truly amazing. Next came excellent fried fillet of Scottish salmon with mild baby radishes, smoked paprika on a potato crisp, creamy shavings of fennel and a fennel and dill purée, another winner and remarkable for its contrasting textures. The main dish of partridge was unforgettable, the poached breast perfectly done with a subtle game flavour, a splendid, gamier confit leg, a marvellous reminder of the past with the roseval potato which made us think of the smoked jacket versions we used to get from street vendors, a mushroom purée to die for, and sweet sweetcorn adding that bit of extra interest. Simply top-class! For once cheese was an integral part of the tasting menu, and our selection, including a sublime Stilton and a light, fresh goat's cheese, was matched by a quirky poppy-seed crisp. Our first dessert/palate cleanser was notable for two reasons, firstly the great combination of sweet flavours in the strawberry, grape and elderflower trifle, and secondly that the wine served with it was a really good match, and it was South African and it was a botrytis Sauvignon Blanc. My sincere congratulations to the sommeliers! We concluded with an amazing chocolate mousse with caramel honeycomb, beautifully peanutty ice cream topped with a PX jelly. A truly wonderful meal, and we were privileged to be able to pay our thanks to Marcus Eaves in his kitchen, where we noted that, as usual, the best chefs are modest, approachable, friendly people, and where we noted that even as we chatted with him the attention to detail continued with him approving every detail of the dishes that were leaving the pass. Hats off to all at Pied-à-terre, which on this evidence deserves a much higher rating.