Maintaining a consistently high level in a leading restaurant for years on end is no easy task. Having held (at least) one Michelin star since the 1993 guide, Pied a Terre certainly falls into that category. A small restaurant with a big history that's seen many stellar chefs pass through its kitchen, I was really looking forward to experiencing food from current head chef Marcus Eaves as I took my wife for a late Friday lunch.
The greeting was warm and the service throughout was charming from all the staff; the maitre d' was a model of composure and the sommelier, in the very nicest possible way, was a quirky and interesting fellow. We were given the choice of a table in the front or rear of the restaurant; a quick glance at the front indicated some extremely close together tables so we opted for the main restaurant area at the back.
I have to say, I immediately found the room rather dated. From the circle embossed mirrors, to the green chairs, to the dusty box of bones (literally) on the back wall, with one poor bone having fallen to the bottom of the display case, the whole place just felt like it's very much stuck in 1995. Undoubtedly that's the kind of decor some people long for, but it's not an era that personally does a lot for me.
We were sat in the corner on one side of what is really a table for four, but next to each other since the arrangement left no space for someone to sit opposite. It was like we were waiting for two extra guests who would never arrive and reminded me a little of sitting in McDonalds. Conversation is already difficult if your fellow guest is at a ninety degree angle, but what made it impossible was the noise. Now of course, this is down to the other guests and there were some very loud parties in, but the acoustics of the small room really don't help in that situation. Waiters and waitresses were pretty much having to shout at us to be heard, not an ideal experience.
After selecting a nice glass of white from the encyclopaedic wine list, I sat back eager for some top food from the limited (2 choices per course) lunch menu. I started with the beef cheek which was very nice with a lovely deep sauce, I enjoyed that. Unfortunately my wife had less luck with a disappointing cold salmon dish. And then came a very, very long wait the mains. The maitre d' did come and apologise but as we were ordering from the lunch menu, I wasn't expecting such an extensive delay.
Whilst we were waiting we were subjected to the endless topping up of water. I actually like having my water glass not empty, but this felt like it was done after every sip, just a little bit too attentive for me. Even after we'd finished our bottle and said no more, the waiter came back with tap water! In the end I was glad he did given the wait for the mains, good use of his insider knowledge there.
At least when it did eventually arrive, my main was worth the wait. It was a beautifully cooked hake dish with a stunning green pea puree; classically modern and looked great on the plate. It needed something a bit extra to complete the dish and that was provided by a "spinach lasagne"; all in all it was a very accomplished piece of cooking. My wife though was again disappointed, this time with a dish of poussin.
With only one dessert on the lunch menu, we then switched to the carte. This time it was my wife's turn to get the good dish, with a very impressive chocolate mousse and peanut ice cream which she thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately my creme caramel was very disappointing; the accompanying ginger ice cream carried a lot of punch but the creme caramel itself was severely lacking positive aspects. You can't just provide a potent orange sauce and say "there's your flavour", a good dessert needs to have more to it than that. With carte desserts coming in at a whopping £15 each, I felt slightly robbed. The petit fours to finish certainly carried some interesting flavours which won't be to everyone's taste, but I enjoyed them.
The food overall was of a good standard, but the previously achieved dizzying heights of two Michelin stars and 8/10 in the Good Food Guide seem a long way away. Yes the lunch menu is good value, but for just one pound more you can hop down the road and eat at Pollen Street Social; there's just no comparison between the food served in each. Eating at Pied a Terre is still an enjoyable event and I'm sure it'll maintain a loyal following for many years to come. However, to be perfectly frank, throughout the whole experience I really felt like this is a restaurant desperately, but also unashamedly, clinging to past glories with no willingness to change. But hey, the restaurant was full for lunch so if the punters keep coming back, why change anything I guess.
|Ratings||Michelin Guide||AA Guide||Good Food Guide|
|At time of review||7|