L’Autre Pied opened in November 2007, the little sister of Pied à Terre. It is at one end of Blandford Street in Marylebone seating just over 50 customers at any one time; there is also a private dining room available. Modern art adorns the walls of the low-ceilinged room, and there is a more casual feel to it than Pied à Terre e.g. there are no tablecloths. The kitchen of L’Autre Pied is now run by Andy McFadden, an Irish chef who worked at Pied à Terre after stints at several other restaurants, including a one year assignment at Oud Sluis. He took over in 2011 from Marcus Eaves, who moved to Pied à Terre. The tasting menu this evening was priced at £70, starters were £13 to £15.50, main courses £27 to £29 and desserts £8.50 to £9.50. Coffee was £3.95, and mineral water £3.50 a bottle.
The wine list concentrates on France, though there is a reasonable selection from elsewhere too. Stehelin Sablet Grand Camassot 2009 was priced at £25 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £9, Chanson Pere Les Haut Marconnet Savigny 2008 was £57 for a wine that retails at around £20, and Trimbach Riesling Cuvee Frederick Emile 1997 was £150 for a wine that you can find in a shop for around £63. Bread was made from scratch and was excellent: baguettes were merely pleasant, sweet onion and cep brioche good, but olive and Parmesan bread, and especially the walnut and raisin bread were excellent (strong 6/10 average, the best of the breads easily 7/10). A nibble of chicken liver parfait with dried beetroot on a savoury tuile had quite good flavour, the soft, almost liquid texture of the parfait contrasted by the dried beetroot scattered on top (5/10). A further nibble of courgette mousse was topped with black olives, chives, and toasted poppy seeds. The courgette mousse could have had greater depth of flavour but had pleasing texture, the toasted seeds again providing a firm texture to complement the mousse (5/10).
Mackerel was char-grilled and served with tartare of mackerel, smoked eel, mizuna (a Japanese mustard leaf) cream and beetroot. This dish was a little let down by some ordinary mackerel that seemed to me to have been cooked just a little too long; the eel was fine, but the beetroot was the dominant flavour (4/10). Garganelli (a tubular pasta) was stuffed with crab and served with cep marmalade and grated Belper Knolle cheese (a firm, aged cheese from Berne). The pasta had good texture and the flavours were well balanced, though the overall effect was a little dry; perhaps a little more of the cep marmalade would have been beneficial here (5/10).
Scallop ceviche was served with black quinoa, crème fraiche, radishes, dill, cucumber balls and kaffir lime leaves. The lime leaves had their distinctive and pleasing aroma, the scallops were of good quality but their sweet flavour was rather lost amongst the other elements, the quinoa taking its turn to be the crunchy textural contrast in this dish (5/10). Plaice was roasted and served with broccoli puree, pickled cauliflower, pink grapefruit and black onion seeds. The fish was cooked well enough, but the dish did not seem to me to need the stark flavour contrast of the sourness of the cauliflower and the sharpness of the grapefruit and by now the black onion seed as a crunchy texture distraction was becoming wearing given its recurrence throughout every dish (4/10). Sika deer was cooked in cocoa and served with grilled pears, smoked goats curd, redcurrant and peanuts. The deer had very good flavour and was carefully cooked, and although in theory the pears should have provided balancing acidity the overall effect seemed to me too sweet, the balance not quite right with the redcurrants. This was an enjoyable dish but for me it could be improved by more careful balance of sweetness and acidity (5/10).
A pre-dessert of coconut foam with a soup of passion fruit and peach was pretty; this was a simpler dish and the better for it, the flavours clean and the dish nicely balanced, though the chef again could not resist a crunchy texture, here provided by honeycomb (6/10). For dessert, stem ginger mousse was served with pecan nuts, lime, mango and fromage blanc. The ginger flavour came through well, though there seemed to be a lot of elements to this dish (5/10). Chocolate pavé (using Valrhona Caramelia chocolate) had smooth texture, served with pistachio and tonka bean ice cream and just a few flakes of honeycomb. This was a simpler and more classical combination of ingredients, and the better for it: the chocolate and pistachio worked well together, the ice cream was good and the technical execution of the pavé was very capable (6/10).
Service was a little erratic at the beginning of the meal, but settled down. The bill came to £98 a head, with a mid-range (£55) bottle of wine. Mr McFadden likes to have a textural crunch in his dishes, which is fine in itself but seemed to be taken a little to excess this evening as dish after dish involved some element that had been toasted or dried to provide a crunchy texture. This rather detailed point aside, the cooking was assured though there seemed to be a tendency to put more flavours on the plate than was strictly necessary. Still, this was technically accomplished cooking, and I actually enjoyed this meal more than my previous visit here.
The notes that follow are from a meal in November 2009.
The second restaurant of Pied a Terre, with ex-Pied sous chef Marcus Eaves, is not a bistro. I say this because I had initially assumed this might be a sort of Tom’s Kitchen equivalent from Pied a Terre, yet it is decidedly more ambitious than that, despite the lack of tablecloths. The decor is pleasant, with a few oriental touches wooden floors and bare tables that amplify noise more than perhaps is ideal. Below are notes from my most recent meal.
A very uneven meal tonight. We had been to a party earlier in the evening in with some nibbles, so we skipped a starter course (which were priced £9.95 - £15.95) . Bread is, according to our waiter, now made from scratch, a choice of nice rosemary rolls, white and rye bread (5/10). Amuse-bouche was a velouté of chestnut and bacon served in an eggshell, with toast soldiers. The soup had good flavour, but was tepid in temperature, verging on cold, which was not optimal (perhaps 4/10). My main course was very enjoyable. Roasted breast of mallard (£25.95) was cooked quite rare and had full flavour, served on a bed of creamed Savoy cabbage, with a just flavoured with rosemary and wet walnuts, alongside a game pithivier. The cabbage was cooked nicely, the jus a good accompaniment, but the pithivier was quite small, meaning that there was a lot of pastry relative to the game, though it was fine otherwise. My only real criticism was that a confit of duck was over-salted (still 5/10 overall).
My companion’s line-caught plaice with girolle mushrooms, autumn truffle and smoked pomme puree (£21.95) was however, sufficiently over-salted that it needed to be re-made. Please understand that I am a fan of bold seasoning, so when I say that something is over-salted it is like Jeremy Clarkson telling you that a car is too fast. The fish was fine the second time around, and was timed correctly on both tries, though the mushrooms were still quite salty (maybe 4/10 overall the second time).
Dessert was an even more uneven experience. My passion fruit soufflé (£9.50) was a little eggy but was very enjoyable, the passion fruit flavour coming through well; an Alphonso mango sorbet was not seasonal (these mangoes appear in May) but had nice texture and decent flavour (5/10). However a tart fine of (pretty much seasonal) fig was anything but fine. The first attempt had pastry that was so soft and soggy that the tart could be rolled up like a newspaper. A second attempt had pastry that was actually quite hard and tricky to cut, with a filling that, as a secondary level issue, had insufficient sugar relative to the fruit (0/10). Coffee was fine (6/10), with nice salted caramels but somewhat chewy fruit jelly. The staff were very pleasant throughout, but this was a worryingly inconsistent meal for a restaurant of this level and the price point that is now charged. The bill came to £75 a head.
What follows are notes from a meal in November 2007, a meal that was both better and significantly cheaper.
The menu is firmly off-bistro: monkfish cheeks with braised oxtail and smoked pomme puree is not going to be appearing at Racine any time soon. There were seven starters, priced mostly in the £6 - £9 range, seven main courses from £14.95-£19.95, and desserts £6 or so. There are no sneaky extra vegetables, but chocolates at £2.85 extra to go with coffee at £1.75 seems less than generous. The wine list is well chosen, and there are plenty of selections under £40, and even several half bottles. A half of Mas de Daumas Gassac 2005 at £25 is only just over twice the retail price of £12.07, and generally mark-ups are restrained.
Bread is from a local supplier, Le Pain Quotidien, and made to order twice a day; very pleasant it is too (5/10). There are no fripperies such as amuse-bouche. I began with Cornish mackerel, served cold, with pickled baby carrot and red mustard leaves. This was an unusual way to serve the mackerel, with appeared as three pieces with a slightly gelatinous texture; I found the flavours clean, and the dish was attractively presented (4/10). Gravadlax of Glenarm salmon was more of a crowd pleaser, served with a lightly curried cauliflower puree pudding. The dish suffered a little from the salmon being fridge-cold, but the puree was an interesting way to make a potentially dull dish more interesting (4/10). I was pleasantly surprised by monkfish cheeks, slow-cooked with smoked pommes puree and braised oxtail. Monkfish can easily turn to cardboard, but here the fish cheeks were soft with a hint of sweetness, the contrast of the oxtail working well, the dish garnished prettily with pea shoots (a good 5/10).
For main course my hare was steamed and then roasted, served with root vegetables and a caramelised onion puree. The hare was excellent, with plenty of flavour yet without the over-gamey tendency that hare can sometimes have (6/10). Braised pork belly had excellent texture and plenty of flavour, served with braised pig cheeks and bathed in the cooking juices (6/10). This was better than gilt head bream, which in itself was cooked fine but whose salsify puree was rather tasteless, and just one bite tasted of the promised rosemary, which would have been a good way of lifting the dish if there had been more of it. From a presentational viewpoint, the fish in a brown coloured sauce could have been better with some sort of garnish (3/10).
For dessert, my chocolate mousse had good quality chocolate and smooth texture, served with an orange ice-cream and Clementine marmalade whose acidity was nicely controlled, a balance to the richness of the chocolate but not so much as to intrude (6/10). Warm financier, almond milk and coffee sorbet, and bayleaf pannacotta with pear sorbet and red wine granite also worked well (5/10).
I wonder a little about what this restaurant is trying to be, since it is clearly not aiming at the bistro crowd. Its ambition level is higher, but using cheaper ingredients than would be usually be found in a place with Michelin ambitions. This is not a bad thing, as there is no reason why interesting food cannot be made without langoustines and wild turbot. Technique seemed high quality to me, though the composition of some of the dishes may be challenging for a mass audience. I notice a couple of press reviews whining about portion size, but this did not seem at all a problem to me. Service was fine for us, though it looked a little stretched at times; however co-owner David Moore was on hand to smooth over any minor glitches. I am glad that they have aimed higher than what I will christen a “yab” (yet another bistro) that seems to pervade the London food scene at present. The distinctly full dining room suggested that the public is also ready for something more interesting too.