Nestled on a quiet side street just round the corner from chi-chi Marylebone Lane and boasting a Michelin star, L’Autre Pied offers well executed and beautifully presented food in a surprisingly relaxed setting. Its fantastic value set lunch menu also means that, although still a treat, it isn’t as dauntingly expensive as its more famous sister restaurant, Pied à Terre. I was recently taken to L’Autre Pied by a friend as a belated birthday present, and just couldn’t resist using the experience as fuel for another restaurant review.
The décor at L’Autre Pied has a casual elegance, with sleek dark wood tables and chairs and a harmonious colour scheme for the walls. The exception is one wall of frosted glass embossed with intricate images of garden flowers in bright spring colours which makes for a brilliant contrast and of which I had a perfect view from our central table. Once we were comfortably seated, a friendly waitress offered us home-made bread rolls from an impressive selection presented in a wicker basket. We both chose the black olive and parmesan bread, which was served warm and had a delightfully doughy texture from the melted cheese, and a subtle saltiness from the olives. The next foodie treat to arrive was the complimentary amuse bouche, a vivid green courgette and basil mousse topped with toasted seeds and infinitely finely chopped black olives and chives. The texture of the mousse was wonderfully light and smooth, and contrasted beautifully with the crunch of the toasted seeds, whose slight nuttiness, together with the sweetness of the courgette, helped to keep the tang of the basil in check and ensure that the mousse’s overall flavour remained delicate and balanced.
My starter, of crapaudine beetroot baked in salt, balsamic, goat’s curd and tapioca, looked incredible – the vibrant pink beetroot blushing furiously against the creamy white goat’s curd which had been artfully strewn with intensely coloured purple and orange petals making it look like a work of art on a plate, and almost too beautiful to destroy by eating. Almost. The taste was equally impressive, with the soft baked beetroot’s natural sweetness tempered by the salt from the cooking, while the unique texture of the tapioca was immensely refreshing next to the rich creaminess of the goat’s curd and the syrupy acidity of the balsamic added yet another layer of complexity. My dining partner was just as enamoured of starter of sauté of artichokes, grelot onions, black garlic, hazelnuts and parsley oil.
For main course, I opted for the roast Pollock, glazed aubergine, black olive, pine nuts and rosemary. This too was delicious, the delicate flesh of the white fish yielding to the slightest pressure from my knife and coming away in flakes according to the grain of the meat, while the glazed aubergine was almost fondant in texture and tasted somehow sweetened. The pine nuts provided a satisfying crunch, but for me the rosemary and black olives were lost amid the myriad other flavours that hadn’t been included in the menu description. My only other slight quibbles with this dish were that it seemed to come bathed in rather a lot of oil, the majority of which I left behind, and that my dining partner’s vegetarian main was essentially identical, just without the fish. She did enjoy it, but it left me wondering whether the chef couldn’t have devised something a little bit different for her.
Dessert of almond panna cotta with blueberry compote, white peach sorbet and coconut, however, was a brilliant return to form. The panna cotta was springy and firm under my spoon, and where the blueberry compote’s flavour was slightly understated, the white peach sorbet was bursting with sweet fruit intensity. The coconut was not shaved or dessicated as I had envisaged, but presented as a cloud of soft white meringue. Two thin slivers of a sort of chocolate brittle balanced the dish out both in terms of texture and flavour, their bitter toast aftertaste cutting through the sweetness of the fruit and the rich creaminess of the panna cotta. All combined, this was pure dessert heaven and my dining partner and I could easily have polished off two more.
Service at L’Autre Pied is smooth and attentive, as one would expect from a Michelin starred establishment, but it never feels overbearing. The wine list runs the gamut from Old World to New and covers all the main grape types, with a good selection available by the glass as well as the bottle and several choices at decent, entry level prices. I enjoyed a glass of the Gewurztraminer, Seifried, Nelson (£5 for a small glass), which was the recommended tipple to accompany my beetroot starter. Classically aromatic, with a background scent of apricots, and a hint of lychees and even a touch of cinnamon on the palate, it was deliciously light and easy to drink and went down well with my fish main too. With a three course lunch for £25.50, the total bill (including wine, mineral water and service) came to around £34 per head – perhaps not the cheapest lunch in London but certainly one of the best value given the quality and the luxury of the overall experience. What with my little main course quibbles, I can’t award full marks, but L’Autre Pied is a winning choice with four big Forks-Up.L’Autre Pied 5-7 Blandford Street London W1U 3DB T: 020 7486 9696