Pied a Terre was opened by David Moore in 1991, and over the years has seen some serious chef grace its kitchens: Richard Neat, Tom Aikens, Shane Osborn (all gaining two stars) Marcus Eaves and Andy McFadden. The latest chef to run the kitchen is Asimakis Chaniotis, who trained at the Grecotel in Athens before joining Pied a Terre as a chef de partie. He worked at Pied a Terre at its the now closed sister restaurant Autre Pied for six years before being promoted to head chef. These days Pied a Terre offers a tasting menu at £105, a more elaborate one at £145 or a la carte where a starter and main course were £65, with desserts costing around £15. As a nice touch, there was a full vegetarian tasting menu available.
The wine list had quite broad coverage from around the world and featured labels such as Ostertag Sylvaner 2014 at £48 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £23, Rubicon Meerlust 2014 at £67 compared to its retail price of £26 and Grosset Watervale Riesling 2005 at £82 for a bottle that will set you back £35 in a shop. At the posher end of the list there are choices like Faiveley Echezaux 2001 at £226 compared to its retail price of £136, and Domaine Arlaud Bonnes-Mares 2005 at £640 for a bottle whose current market value is £258. There is also corkage at £25, which is a very reasonable level for central London.
Some nibbles began the meal. There was a little plant pot of radish with dehydrated black olive “soil”, the radishes buried in the soil. This is hardly an original dish so the surprise value is limited if you have travelled around much, but the radish was of good quality. Smoked salmon came with cream cheese and white chocolate tasted too much of chocolate and not enough of salmon so felt rather unbalanced to me. Better was little cylindrical crisp containing steak tartare, the crisp itself delicate and the tartare having quite good flavour. There were also little potato soufflés topped with Dorset snail caviar (the eggs of land snails), which were pleasant, the vaguely earthy flavour of the eggs quite subtle, and the eggs contrasting in texture with the crisp potato (14/20 average). This was followed by an egg box containing hollowed out egg shells with scrambled eggs with tomatoes, oregano and feta cheese mousse. This was very enjoyable, the feta being the primary flavour, but the other elements enlivening the flavour of the cheese (15/20).
Girolles were cooked en papillotte in banana leaves along with a bowl of rosemary, lemon zest and black quinoa. The mushrooms themselves were quite plain but had excellent flavour, and I liked the way that the texture of the quinoa contrasted with the mushrooms (15/20). The dish of the meal was quail that had been smoked with sherry wood, served with a salad of carrot, asparagus, potato, yuzu and pine nut vinaigrette. This was outstanding, attractive to look at, the quail lovely and complemented by an appealing harmony of flavours and textures (easily 17/20).
Sea trout raviolo came with basil puree, peach and Sicilain Detterini tomato. The tomatoes had excellent flavour and the trout was good, the basil puree working well with the fish; my only niggle was that the pasta seemed a fraction too hard (just about 16/20). Pembrokeshire crab came with pickled green strawberries, samphire, wasabi purée and a lime and ginger foam. The crab was shell free and tasted very fresh, the gentle spice from the puree and the sourness of the pickled strawberries contrasting nicely with the crab (15/20).
Red mullet was wrapped in potato “spaghetti“ that was deep fried and served with cucumber rolls, coconut and saffron sauce and a crisp, fried red mullet skeleton. This was very enjoyable, the mullet good and the crisp fish skin excellent (15/20). A fillet of poached turbot was from a fairly large 5kg fish and came with spinach mousse and langoustine tail as well as spinach with a garlic cheese from Switzerland called Belper Knolle, resting in a pool of langoustine jus. The turbot had quite good flavour, the langoustine was carefully cooked and the cheese and spinach was an unusual but pleasant pairing with the seafood (15/20).
A pre-dessert was carrot tartare with a coconut and Malibu mousse with carrot and lemon thyme foam. I liked the coconut flavour but was less sure about the foam. Carrot can certainly work in desserts, as can be seen from the Indian classic carrot halwa, but here it seemed a slightly odd pairing with the coconut (14/20). Cherry parfait came with manjari, kirsch and lemon ganache as well as cherry purée, poached cherries and scented geranium ice cream. The cherries were of good quality and the parfait worked well, though the ice cream seemed a little odd to me (15/20). Yorkshire rhubarb panna cotta was suitably wobbly and came with poached basil and lemon grass with rhubarb liquor foam, basil and foam of vanilla infused basil oil. The rhubarb was not too sharp and the lemongrass brought an interesting flavour note to the dish (16/20).
Service was excellent, with a particularly good sommelier who demonstrated that he had an impressive memory. The bill came to £164 a head including service, albeit with quite a lot of nice wine. If you ordered three courses and were careful with the wine then a typical cost per head might be £120 all in. Overall this was a very enjoyable evening, with welcoming service and some good dishes, especially the terrific quail salad.