This leisurely teambuilding activity at Pied à Terre works for all abilities and ends in a four-course lunch
I’m 6ft 4, so being in the subterranean, not-built-for-purpose kitchen of a townhouse restaurant was a cosy affair. As we descended the stairs, George Orwell came to mind. Those vivid paragraphs describing his time as a pot washer in Down and Out in Paris and London stuck with me – a look into the intense, close-quarter environments that implausibly made the best food in either city.
The fact that Fitzrovia’s Pied à Terre has held onto a Michelin-star by consistently creating refined French food means its chefs are talented; that the food is created in such a small space makes them magicians.
Now, precocious head chef Asimakis Chaniotis is inviting groups behind the scenes to see just how his dishes are conjured. Its part of a new morning masterclass package that allows guests the chance to make and eat their own fine-dining fare.
Bread first. The five of us huddled round a stainless steel surface, taking it in turns to knead a sourdough. Wax on, wax off – Mr Miyagi would be have been good at this. It took a little time to get it right, but before long we were turning out pretty plump pebbles, ready for the oven.
Asimakis then unveiled a live lobster, which was deftly skewered before going on the boil. The claw meat came out first, some to be served as-is on the plate and some in a cannelloni. The plate was finished with Cornish baby leaf lettuce and a delicate tranche of corn on the cob.
‘Can we eat it?’ said one of my gang. Before Asimakis had time to finish his single-word answer a fork-jousting competition had begun. What a treat to see the masterful method, and then destroy its art in the name of a tasty bite.
But the foie gras was superior. We squeezed and tied cooked livers into a muslin sausage before letting it set in the fridge. A ‘here’s one I made earlier’ was revealed for us to slice off a fat disc and plate it up with a lavender and cocoa brioche. Asimakis then signed it off with a port reduction.
It was apparent, at that point, that the experience was less a hands-on cookery class and more a leisurely stroll along the promenade of fine dining – with a safe pair of hands leading the way. All of the glory, none of the grease.
That’s not to say we didn’t learn, though. Asimakis was careful to impart useful tips and we even got a bit of industry gossip thrown in. Something that kept us chattering our way through a rather special four-course, wine-pared lunch that followed upstairs. Orwell would have loved it.
Pied à Terre
’s fine-dining masterclasses can be booked every first and third Friday in the month, or by appointment with a minimum of 3 guests. The experience starts at £195 per person.
Photos Max Miechoski
Don’t fancy a foodie masterclass? Check these other teambuilding ideas out