Thursday, 18 August 2011

Lifting the Pied à Terre off the Ground

Choosing a restaurant to take my parents is always challenging. Ideally the place should serve top-notch food in a top-class environment with unintimidating ambience and friendly yet professional services, preferably with a panoramic view of the world on some 256th floor, fine dining and all but charging no more than £20 per head. Yea right. While I haven’t found that idyllic place, Pied à Terre seem to tick some of the boxes.

The Michelin 2-star restaurant is, as the name suggests, relatively small; modest entrance and a narrow corridor that leads into a cosy dining room with tinted mirrors and white walls. We were shown to the large round table with a corner velvet sofa. Its a full house.

Gently pickled Scallop had a touch of Japanese amuse bouche to it; Foie Gras Panna Cotta had remarkable chemistry with the slim layer of grape jelly, Dad and I both thought we could detect hints of longan fruit; sesame toast with cream cheese was what it says on the tin.

Chilled pea and basil Velouté with White crab meat, Peach and Mozzarella Salad
Only Dad opted for the soup, and what a wise choice. The island of dressed salad was moist with succulent crab meat and juicy ripen peach cubes; its sweetness comfortably took on the silky soup. Perfect for the gentle summer heat.

Confit Chicken and Foie Gras Terrine with Smoked Celery, Pickled Girolle, Walnut and Cornichon Dressing
By contrast I regretted ordering this. This was still carefully thought out with pickled accompaniments to neutralise the denser meaty terrine, and slight bitterness of walnut to add layers to fragrance, but this is not my choice of combination. I definitely prefer softening the foie gras with chutney than punchy vinegars that shadowed everything.

Rabbit Wrapped in Parma Ham with Crushed Broad Bean, Roasted Shallots, Fondant Potato, Sauteed Mousserons and Lemon Thyme Foam
I used to say rabbit is not a staple meat because it’s awful. I would like to revise that statement to Rabbit is not a staple meat because very few people can do the job as well as the chefs do here.  I put my money on the meat being cooked sous vide, for its juices were sealed and the rabbit blocks were packed with flavours. Not dissimilar to chicken thighs, but better. The Parma ham added grease and small bits of dark meat contributed to variation in textures. It’s bold, strong and energetic.

Pan-Fried Sea Bream with Courgette and Basil Puree, Tomato Fondue, Lemon Oil and Herb Emulsion
It is difficult to expect fireworks with pan-fried fish, unless it carried unexpected flavours like the one in Arbutus. This fish course is so very familiar, like Seven Park Place and Artisan, perfect execution but little surprises. The sauces and purees perhaps came in a slightly different form, but bottomline, flavours and combination are identical. The spoiler here was the tomato fondue, which could do with a bit of sugar to tone down its citruses.

Coffee ice cream with roasted coco brittles. Straightforward stuff, clean and crisp, and my parents thought this was the dessert.

Chilled Rice Pudding, Alphonso Mango Compote, Pineapple Sorbet, Coconut Foam, Tasmanian Pepper Berry
Textures were clearly graded and defined from the thick rice pudding to smooth sorbet then to fluffy foam. Summery and exotic. May I suggest serving this on a black plate for maximum visual impact?

White Chocolate Cream Brulee, Confit Raspberry
For a dessert that demands £15, this had better be good. And boy it was. The crème brulee finger was just dense enough to hold its shape, but liquefied as soon as the spoonful touched the tongue into the most velvety, luscious mouthful and a trace of delicate sugar. I think it was lemon ice cream, because I remember it was something zesty but genuinely can’t be sure.

I think my family enjoyed it. Dad humoured everything tasted great, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what he was eating. I’m not sure if he was referring to the complexity of the recipes or my poor translations. But hey, why don’t you try translating ‘cornichon and ‘confit to Cantonese? Anyway, I certainly enjoyed it.There were much subtle balances in each dish, with an array of unlikely ingredients that complemented so well. Not to mention the immaculate cooking.

Head to head, Mum said she preferred Joel Robuchon because she thought the food was much less predictable and service was more personable.

34 Charlotte Street
Tel: 0207 636 1178

Pied à Terre on Urbanspoon

You may also like: PearlViajanteGalvin Luxe de Bistrot

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