Thursday, 20 October 2011

L'Autre Pied - The Wrong Foot

October has been cruel. Summer left, market crashed, work’s been crazy and people are stressed. When Lastminute offered a 5-course tasting menu at L’Autre Pied for £24.50pp, I thought there was kindness in the world afterall.

Following the sophisticated meal at Pied a Terre, I had fairly high hopes for L’Autre Pied. On a side street of the trendy Marylebone High Street, the small dining room boasted a casual ambience; we were seated next to the glowing cyan walls with hand-painted floral patterns, right beside the narrow doorway to the private dining section where the craggy slide door grunted throughout my meal. I didnt appreciate the oddly designed tables either, it had a rubbery/sticky mat integrated onto the surface, and it looked particularly bad where the paint on the edges were fading.

Pumpkin Mousse with Walnut shavings
Flavours were subtle, just faint suggestions of pumpkin in the dense mousse. The roasted aroma brought by the pine nuts kept the dish slightly more interesting, but the thin slices of walnuts tasted plastic.

I drew my mind back to the similar amuse bouche at Joel Robouchon, where delicate bacon foam lifted the sweetness of the rich pumpkin mousse. Nothing like it here.

Pan-fried Mackerel, anchovies, pine nuts
Easily the best dish of the evening. Mackerel is a strong fish and it comfortably took on the anchovies with (possibly) fermented black beans. The skin was fried to wafer crispiness while retaining the moisture.

And hello pine nuts, we meet again. Just as roasted and identical as they were in the previous dish.

Sea Bream, spring onion, potato mash
While the fillet was crispy on the skin, the flesh was parched and cooked to death. Flavours were good, plenty of spring onions with a hint of ginger and a few garlic drops, but nothing new. I guess this is what made the experience so disappointing; there was nothing I couldnt have made at home to an equal standard.

And frankly for a fixed 3-course meal, offering 2 fish courses both pan-fried and served with the same blobs of lemon mayo really says a lot of about the creativity of the kitchen, not to mention how reluctant they are to serve this menu.

Whipped cream with peaches & pears
The pre-dessert was introduced to us as Coconut foam with Mango soup; except this wasn’t. On our final spoonful we worked out it was diced peach and pears out of the can, with a dollop of whip cream to cover how ugly it looks.

Coconut Foam and Mango soup
There our waitress repeated what she said 10 mins ago, without a hint of embarrassment.
The concept is similar to the exotic mango rice pudding I had back in Pied a Terre, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Here the same idea transpired into lazy, sloppy, out-of-carton mango juice with a few grains of pudding rice topped with whipped cream sprinkled with shreds of dried coconut. I guess the consolation was the almond brittle, which wasn’t all that brittle actually.

Service was… where to start? Well, pouring water by inverting the bottle 180 degrees is bound to cause a splash. While an odd accident is alright, doing this repeatedly throughout my meal just pissed me off. And there is a marked difference between swift and just-hurry-up-the-f*ck-up. All with a smile, nonetheless.

Truly underwhelming experience, I don’t recall disliking a Michelin star restaurant that much. I would have been happier had the recipes been simple but executed to perfection. And you cannot call this a 5-course tasting menu; it's a fixed 3-course with amuse bouche and pre-desserts. Otherwise Gauthier would often be serving a minimum of 6 courses, counting in the canapes; or Viajante would be serving a silly 16-course dinner including the series of teasers and petit fours. It’s a shame, the best thing about the meal was the caramelised onion brioche from the bread basket. And I guess it was good because that was the only item unspecific to the special offer tasting menu.

5-7 Blandford Street
Tel: 0207 486 9696

L'Autre Pied on Urbanspoon
You may also like: Seven Park PlaceViajantePearl

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