A colleague approached me recently: could I recommend a Michelin-star restaurant? Her boyfriend is ‘into’ food, she explains, but she finds the whole restaurant industry ‘a nightmare’. Intrigued, I asked her what was confusing about it. Oh, you know, the menus, she says. In this city of cereal cafes, restaurants which double-up as hairdressers and edgy Heston Blumenthal wannabes, I can sympathise.
If you feel the same way, don’t fear. L’Autre Pied have you covered. Surrender to their tasting menu, absolve yourself of choice and responsibility, and let yourself be guided by the impeccable knowledge of the waiting staff. The food here is intelligent without being complicated, composed without being stuffy. Above all, you’re assured of an excellent meal.
Once we’re seated, I ask founder David Moore what difference a Michelin star makes. “It’s about more than just being a very good dish” he explains. “You should be able to tell, just from looking at it, who the chef was. There should be a great deal of personality in the dish”. This turns out to be a prophetic remark. During our seven-course tasting menu, we keep encountering innovative touches, dishes where originality runs through every sinew.
The tone is set by a tomato granita with avocado puree, gherkin and spring onions, at once sharp, tart and baffling. It’s like a slush puppy conceived by Pablo Picasso. It’s blown away by the following dish, a shard of roasted mackerel crowned with a pyramid of crunchy, roasted quinoa, creating a striking polarity of textures. The wholesome woody notes of the quinoa fortify and expand the delicate flavour of the mackerel, combining to form a new, composite taste. A balsamic and miso dressing, lent additional zest by a dollop of tomato, completes the symphony. It’s fantastic: with each mouthful, intriguing blends of flavours arise.
These nuances expand, forming the key element of each dish: the fried squid crackers accompanying the squid ‘linguine’, the cauliflower puree that enlivens the cod, the red pepper ketchup which brightens braised lamb shoulder. You start to look out for clever quirks, well-considered touches which indicate the creativity and boldness of the chef. Each plate doubles up as an exquisite puzzle, an edible sketch, an experiment in flavour. You find yourself eating more consciously, aware that each bite could cradle a masterpiece of taste. Even the lamb, the most straightforward of the dishes, demonstrates the kind of subtlety you rarely witness at the table. Ultimately, though, there’s still a familiar contrast between the flaky, crunchy exterior of the lamb and the exquisite tenderness within: L’Autre Pied haven’t forgotten the basics.
Complete with the wine-pairings, there’s an additional layer of complexity. Friendly, unobtrusive sommeliers ensure a smooth introduction to L’Autre Pied’s magisterial wine selection. The wine pairings add a cohort of unique voices to the conversation, accenting each dish in a different way. They’re not afraid to go beyond France, either – Mosels from Germany, Malbecs from Argentina and Pinot Noirs from South Africa add flashes of exotic discovery to the meal.
By the time we’re praising our dessert of coconut rice pudding with sake, lime coulis and Amaretto crumble, the only question left is which dish we liked best. And here’s the strength of the tasting menu: you don’t fill up on any one dish. Each dish flirts with your appetite, intriguing the palette, without overdoing it. You leave feeling sated, but not overwhelmed: high praise for any chef who feeds you seven courses. Visit, and you’ll find that you too have no trouble recommending it.
5-7 Blandford Street
Tel: 0207 486 9696