Friday 1 June 2012

Pied a Terre

The last time that we ate at Pied a Terre was an age ago. I remember it almost vividly. We had finished dinner, paid up, and we were standing outside ready to take a short stroll.
 Out of the restaurant appeared the then much revered head chef Richard Neat with a young Tom Aikens. Happy bunnies they were, and ever so eager to engage in conversation, more so Neat than a shy Aikens.
It turns out that they were on their way to Paris to cook in Joel Robuchon's kitchen, and ever so excited they were about it too.
Of course at that time Robuchon was a very big fish in a relatively small pond. Much later, Neat moved on and Aikens went on to achieve, before he moved on then to eventually open his own place. Since then of course Shane Osbourne has been and gone. The latest incumbent is now one Michelin starred Marcus Eaves who was head chef at L' Autre Pied, another one of successful restaurateur David Moore's fine establishments.

We had decided which menu that we were eating from, the tasting. Although in fairness both the carte and set menu looked good.
The carte had plenty of luxury items, Lobster, scallops, turbot, Limousin veal and Pyrenees lamb to name but a few. There are about six or seven items per course to choose from. I would have equally been happy to eat from the Du Jour menu.

To get things rolling a selection of Amuse arrived at the table. The first being a teaser of Pickled Mackerel

Also we were served Mushroom croquettes and some Millefeuille with cream cheese and poppy 


The bread basket was much to my liking, with good choice as in Plain white bagette, Black treacle, Walnut and Pecan nuts, Oatmeal, and Brioche with Onion and Sage.

First course proper was Spiced Pigs head and crab Raviolo with pickled white radish, Shiso and kaffir lime broth. Note the unannounced but most welcome pork crackling on the top.

This was followed with a Salad of White Asparagus with Smoked Duck breast, Ossau Iraty, (ewes milk cheese from France)  black olive and Mayer Lemon.

Native Scottish Lobster with Sweetbread, Confit peach, Loire valley wild Asparagus, and a peach and caramelised peanut dressing followed.

Another luxury ingredient next, Pan fried Turbot with Pomme Souffle, celery, Mousserons and Sea Purslane.

Again a bit of luxury with Slow Roasted Limousin Veal  wrapped in a morel crumb, fresh morels, morel puree, baby artichoke, tarragon brioche, Lardo Di Colonnata and Parmesan cream. Wow this had a glorious aroma and it ate very well too.

 The cheese selection next. The small but perfectly formed board offered just what we desired in the form of
24 month old Ossau Iraty, some Prime Stilton, some Morbier, Brie,etc,etc.

Desserts next. The first of which was Strawberry Sorbet with wild strawberries and strawberry jelly and lemon oil. The strawberries had fabulous depth of flavour.

Last but not least was the Tart of Earl Grey tea with milk and vanilla gel, Bergamot ice cream., Candied orange.

 We finally finished with Coffee and Petit Fours. Witness, Cannelles, Raspberry Jelly, White chocolate with vanilla fudge, and last but not least, Chocolate praline mousse with toasted almond.

So that's it. Another fine meal from a very good kitchen. Marcus Eaves is a top chef and it shows. Every dish hit the spot. The standouts for us both were most certainly the Veal, the Lobster and the Turbot. Good use of mushrooms were made throughout the meal, they added an earthiness and real depth of flavour.

Desserts did not disappoint either. The tart was delicious and the strawberries were top, top quality with a "just picked" taste. If I was to be picky ( which I'm usually not ) I was not too impressed with the cannelles.
 They were weak in comparison to the truly exceptional ones that we ate at Dabbous recently. A very very minor point I admit, and if that is the only thing that I thought not to be top quality, it should tell you volumes of what I thought of the rest of the food.

On to the big question.

Would we return,

 and soon?

Well, there is no way that the above would ever happen again. In fact I like the look of the set lunch menu so much so  that I am trying to fit another visit in between the list of other London restaurants that I desire to visit. Price wise off course the du jour is great value, as they mostly are of course.

I spoke to top chef Aiden Byrne recently, he has worked in this kitchen. Admittedly it was a long time ago, and he was in fact Tom Aikens head chef. He described it that at that time it was one of the toughest kitchens that he has worked in. Things are of course totally different now, but the standards are just as high.

We were fortunate enough to be invited into the kitchen to meet Marcus Eaves and see for ourselves first hand what it is like. The first thing that struck me was that during our conversation Marcus's eagle eye never let any dish leave without scrutinising it thoroughly. I tried to imagine just how tough it must have been in the early days when Neat, Aikens, Byrne et al worked in the then tiny boiling hot space, but managing to turn out hundreds and thousands of exceptional plates of food.

 Ah, the good old days eh.

Well, we are happy to confirm that the quality continues, as this kitchen is in the custody of another very good chef.

Happy chef,
Marcus Eaves with Julien Oliere.


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