Pied à Terre

34 Charlotte St, London

Twenty-three years in business have only refined the cooking at this much-loved Fitzrovia institution.

The road to the top is never easy. Those at the peak of their game have always had both good and bad days, and Pied à Terre is no exception. It has gained and lost its second Michelin star twice. It suffered a horrendous fire in 2004 which caused it to close for nearly a year. But, all in all, there have been far more good days than bad, and 23 years on from opening, the dining room at this Fitzrovia stalwart is still packed, while the kitchen continues to turn out thoughtful, relevant food. One of the great talent conveyor belts of the restaurant industry, Pied à Terre has launched the career of many of the UK’s leading chefs. It was established under the renowned Richard Neat, who stayed on until returning to France in 1996. He passed the torch to his promising sous chef – a certain Tom Aikens – who in turn passed it to his own, Shane Osborn, in 1999. The current head chef, Marcus Eaves, has been at the helm since 2007, and has a Michelin star to show for it.

Pied à Terre has its more relaxed sister restaurants – owner David Moore launched equally acclaimed L’Autre Pied in 2007, pop-up Pied Nus in 2013, and a smokehouse concept, 160 degrees Fahrenheit, opens this spring. But at the original, it’s all white tablecloths, hushed voices: true fine dining. The prices reflect this – don’t expect much change from £100 a head – but the delicate touch provides justification. Roasted breasts of quail are pink and yielding, a creamy ‘quail Kiev’ offset by the bite of radicchio. Dumplings of prawn and shiso, ever so slightly seared, soak up a broth rich in umami. It’s well considered, balanced, precise cooking – quiet food, it doesn’t shout, but demands attention through its subtlety. A fillet of turbot is perfectly poached (a fennel compote lending sweetness, slivered rounds of carrot and radish adding crunch) while lamb with a ragout of pea and mint jus is a palate-full of springtime – you’re almost out there frolicking on the sun-dappled fields. The cheese plate is carefully chosen – five or six quality truckles – while a parfait of oatmeal, popcorn and whisky is a gentle finish, not cloying. Then, after the petits fours, just as we’re ready to depart, we are invited to stay longer for oven-fresh canelés and mini-doughnuts, and truffles stuffed with ice cream. No question about it, today they were having a very good day. AM.

020 7636 1178

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