Pied à Terre: Not quite the complete package

Restaurants with Michelin stars know what they’re doing, right? Especially those that have held at least one since 1993. You would assume so. We, however, encountered one of our least promising starts to a restaurant visit at Pied à Terre. Fortunately, things improved from there. Overall, the experience was positively memorable, if more so for the ambience than the food. Begin at the beginning. Step into Pied à Terre, and it is like entering someone’s house. Admittedly that of a very posh person, but the intimacy and the glamour of the place is evident. The venue oozes effortless class with a slight air of eclecticism (think Georgian cornicing and Blondie on the stereo). Beyond two dining areas on the ground floor, there is also a private dining space and a small upstairs bar. We had planned to visit the latter for a drink prior to eating, particularly since we had learned that it was one of London’s better kept secrets. Imagine then our initial disappointment on thinking ‘oh what a lovely venue,’ to being told that the bar was not available for mere pre-booked diners such as ourselves since it was being occupied by a group prior to their use of the private room. What to do; wander the streets of Fitzrovia aimlessly for an hour, or seek another venue? Happily for us, the charismatic owner, David, smoothed things over, led us upstairs and provided us with two seats at the bar. Champagne in hand, the initial bitter taste was mostly alleviated, even if the accompanying canapes did not massively impress (a cold mac & cheese bite, anyone?). We progressed downstairs with a degree of trepidation, but found ourselves seated at a lovely table, able to survey the entire room’s proceedings. This is dining with showmanship; dishes brought to the table with a flourish, presented beautifully and paired with exciting wines offered by a highly knowledgeable sommelier. That will be the impression I will retain. Indeed, the eight-course menu took almost three hours from beginning to end. We were allowed to luxuriate, sip, savour and take it all in. Opting to have our wines served blind only added to the experience. Nonetheless, if pressed to consider how many of the dishes were truly distinctive or ground-breaking, then I would probably highlight just three: an innovative trout raviolo paired with a horseradish sauce; a rich and profound seabass dish served in XO sauce; and a wonderfully contrasting matcha custard and blackberry dessert. My comrade felt similarly about her vegetarian selection. This is not to dismiss Pied à Terre: it was very good, just not ten-out-of-ten quality. Furthermore, in the final assessment, for a not dissimilar price point one can do better elsewhere.