I’m the first to recognise the benefits of a bit of forward planning and there are few times I exercise this gentle nod towards my mildly controlling nature more than when it involves the consumption of food.
If I’m visiting a new city, it is necessary for me to conduct prior research in order to establish the best eateries in the area and for the best value. If I’m visiting a new restaurant, I must peruse the online menu for some pre-dining salivation and decide ahead what I’ll be ordering (heaven forbid they don’t have a website or I’m presented with a different menu at the table). If I’m going food shopping, I simply must enter with a list or else I’ll have to invention-test the week’s dinners from jumbo roasted corn kernels and Caerphilly, and not much else.
|roasted filled of pollock with glazed baby artichokes,
wild asparagus, mushroom cream and tarragon orzo
I have welcomingly had this week off work and I already knew that tonight myself and a couple of friends would end up at the London Cocktail Club on Goodge St. for some school-night merriment stretching into the wee hours (none of us had work the next day) – the great cocktails, dance-like-no-one-is-watching music from our yesteryears and fabulous staff make it our favourite haunt.
What we desired was an afternoon occupied by a long lunch consisting of equal parts exceptional solids and posh fizz as a pre-cursor to rolling ourselves over to the LCC in time for Happy Hour. And what better placed restaurant to help execute such an intricate plan than the one Michelin starred Pied a Terre on Charlotte Street strategically placed, quite literally, around the corner. I do love it when a plan comes together.
Boasting a lunch time deal that is reputedly ‘the best value Michelin star menu in London’ conjured up by Head Chef Marcus Eaves and his team, the term ‘pied a terre’ is given by the French to a small second home in the city – if the welcome, service and our leisurely and extended stay was anything to go by, it certainly lived true to its name.
My companions and I were seated at a corner table towards the rear of the restaurant in a dining area noticeably occupied mostly by men in suits on business lunches talking about closing deals. After some initial confusion on the waiter’s part with our order for a bottle of the Prosecco (which went something along the lines of ‘a bottle of Prosecco please’, ‘a glass?‘, ‘no a bottle of Prosecco’, ‘we only do champagne by the glass’, ‘no we’d like a whole bottle of Prosecco, not champagne’), we were presented with some very fine tasting bubbles and I’m not even the world’s greatest fan of white grapes.
To amuse the bouche our table was quickly furnished with quite exceptional fresh and warm bread (a particular favourite being the pillowy form of the walnut and pecan with a crisp and flavoursome exterior showcasing bread making skills to be applauded) and the creamy texture and mild flavour from what I think were Sicilian nocellara olives tossed in lemon. In addition, we were presented with hot potato and leek croquettes with truffle and a pretty scallop tempura served in a bowl I wanted to pilfer.
|potato and leek croquettes with truffle|
The tasting of rabbit starter had an overriding flavour of earthiness and included our furry nympho friend presented encased in a delicate ravioli, in the form of a ballotine I believe, and also with half a kidney thrown into the delivery. Whilst conservative in its offering, the plate was quite lovely on the palate and the frequent returns of the warm breads were welcomed and necessary to mop the white asparagus velouté. Unable to stomach the thought of consuming a flop-eared Disney extra, my companions decided upon the chestnut and juniper gnocchi; smooth in texture and seared in a pan for a crisper outer finish, this was served with mushrooms, quite beautiful marbled shavings of spring truffle, green beans, a mushroom vinaigrette and an arrangement of wild garlic flowers.
|a tasting of rabbit with wild garlic, pommery mustard,
grelot onion and white asparagus velouté
|chestnut and juniper gnocchi with saint george mushrooms,
spring truffle, green beans and mushroom vinaigrette
For mains, the roasted fillet of pollock was topped with a crisp crown of very good colour with equal taste and served with glazed baby artichokes, delicate and fine wild asparagus, a frothy mushroom cream and tarragon orzo – its vibrant and airy presentation singing all the right notes of spring.
I had selected the pork cheeks with a form of state that seemed as though the very molecules themselves were breaking down under the slightest pressure from the cutlery – meat that was delightfully falling away from itself and rich in the intense flavour characteristic of a long and low heat treatment. To accompany the cheeks was a quenelle of polenta with a smoothness of consistency I can only imagine is akin to eating spun silk and a basil jus which when poured neatly hugged around every individual item resulting in the plate just needing a frame to finish off the picture.
|slow-cooked pork cheeks with courgettes, sweet garlic,
soft polenta, confit garlic and basil jus
After plates were cleared, our trou normand was a mango sorbet topped with nuggets of dried yoghurt, nestled beside a coconut foam dressed with more nuggets in the form of concentrated dried passion fruit, and finished with a sprig of Thai basil – a perfect combination to cleanse the palate.
All three of us selected the same dessert from the du jour menu – a hazelnut praline mousse and Pedro Ximenez jelly, but we each requested the salted peanut ice cream from the a la carte menu instead of the rum and raisin as suggested. The waiter jovially joked that he had to dodge an incoming black eye when relaying our requests to the chef, but that they had been granted. The flavour of the dish was good with the addition of aniseed globules decorating the plate but the texture of the mousse and jelly was less appealing – a little rubbery and difficult to separate bite-fulls with the spoon.
|mango sorbet and coconut foam|
|hazelnut praline mousse with salted peanut ice cream,
pedro ximenez jelly
We’d been darting glances of food envy across adjacent tables when we noticed small hot balls of sugar coated doughnuts delivered towards the end of diners meals and believed we had missed out on this petit fours, assuming it was a perk of the a la carte menu.
But praise to the powers that be, we were not only delivered these soft and warm balls of bliss, but also each received a trio of more petit fours – mango jelly, a miniature lemon tartelette with chiffon thin crisp pastry and a blow-torched top, and a piece of smooth tongue-coating white chocolate fudge. And the sweet treats didn’t stop there – in addition to our toy patisserie spread we were also treated to dark chocolate marbles filled with coconut ice cream. Like the familiar Italian chocolatier, they were really spoiling us.
|lots of warm doughnuts|
Spoiling us not just with the delights on offer, but also with the service we received from the maître d’ and our waiter. We were repeatedly assured to take our time and enjoy ourselves despite the venue emptying as the end of the lunch sitting drew closer.
When the waiter noticed our eyes light up at the arrival of the much coveted doughnuts, he assured us that should we desire more he would happily request them for us. An offer against the nature of three girls who like their food to pass, and true to form they were delivered. Not only that, but another trio of the jelly, tartelette and fudge as well as top-ups of our coffee. Impressive and more over, fully appreciated.
The expedition of the delivery of our courses was a little stalled with a noticeable expanse of time between ordering and receiving our first course. However, the front of house exercised great efforts to ensure our stomachs were not given the chance to rumble with frequent re-visits of the bread basket to our table.
The façade and interiors of Pied a Terre are sharp yet at ease, the dining experience one of unmonitored and comfortable relaxation. The devices of our small party were left to pave the beginnings of what turned out to be a great journey that evening, with staff still demonstrating attentiveness and leaving us feeling we had received special treatment. And a journey the evening truly was. It culminated in bumping into, and having a drink with the legend that is Monsieur Raymond Blanc. I suspect there are few finer ways of rounding off an already delightful day.
Liked lots – service, presentation, bread, bubbles, pigs cheeks, the relaxed atmosphere, petit fours, location around the corner to our favourite cocktail haunt
Liked less – dessert
Good for – business lunches, value Michelin lunch, first time Michelin experience, small groups, eating at before hitting the LCC
My rating: 4/5