by Tony Levene
London’s Charlotte Street is full of restaurants with bright lights. So it is easy to go straight past Pied a Terre – the exterior is the very essence of understated. And once you have found the front door, there’s a dark grey narrow passage way before you hit the tables themselves.
But it’s all worth it. This Michelin-starred restaurant is almost on another planet from the rest of Charlotte Street (it’s just north of Oxford Street at the Tottenham Court Road end and was once home to several plate smashing Greek eateries).
There’s an air of relaxed luxury. With comparatively few tables, – and they are designed to not invade on the next space – you are treated well. Whatever you order, you receive some amuse bouches to start with – small treats whose making is explained by the waiting staff (as are all the dishes). It has been described as “the best restaurant in London” – and even if that superlative is not true, it’s up with the top five.
We went on a busy evening – even the part owner was helping out on table service.
There are a number of menus – the best value is at lunchtime when two courses costs £33 and three £42. In the evening, the choice is two a la carte choices at £65 (with a third for another £15) or a number of tasting menus, including one for vegetarians. The tasting menus have smaller portions – we felt the vegetarian one, served on the next table, rather overdid leaves and underdid variety.
But our meal was excellent. It is hard to do justice in words to the sea bream ceviche with which my companion started or to the seared cuttlefish which I enjoyed. There is limitless bread – it’s delicious and serves as the starch (no potatoes, pasta or rice).
Everything is beautifully served. My eating partner had pork while I opted for the Essex Fallow Deer, served with beetroots/spiced red cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Juniper and “Chicken Liver Club Sandwich” – the last being fantastic even if like no other club sandwich ever experienced.
There’s a good choice of wine (starting around £35 a bottle) but because our starters were fish and our main courses meat, we opted for wine by the glass (£6 to £10).
I had a rhum baba to finish – again like no other rhum baba! And my companion, a chocolate concoction.
We finished with coffee (wide variety of coffees and teas), which comes with chocolates. But even that is served with the same sense of theatre that is throughout the meal.
At about £240 including service, this is for special occasions only, when you want a meal that you will truly remember for a very long time!
Pied a Terre
34 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2NH | 020 7636 1178
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road
Closed Saturday lunchtime