Food 2016 – L’Autre Pied, London

Saturday, 28th May 2016 – L’Autre Pied, London

Sometimes, just sometimes, there’s a Groupon offer that is just too good to turn down, and that makes going into London on a Saturday worth the effort. The offer of a tasting menu at two for the price of one at the one-Michelin starred l’Autre Pied was one such offer. I wasn’t going to turn that one down…

There was a slight kerfuffle on arrival as the booking I’d made online didn’t exist in their book of reservations on the date of my choice or any other, but we explained we’d come up to town especially to use the Groupon and dine there, and after a brief consultation between several front of house staff a table was procured for us. We were warned we might have to hand it back after two hours but that they would do their best to avoid that happening, and we decided we could live with that.

L’Autre Pied is a bit of an odd shape, with inconveniently placed pillars, and a staircase to the toilet facilities that isn’t really for the less than able-bodied, as proven later in the day by an unfortunate elderly gentleman who really struggled to get down their and even more so to get back up. However, facility access aside, it’s a pleasant main room with tables that are a tad small but that’s understandable if the staff need to be able to move about freely. I liked it anyway.

Perhaps unsurprisingly we needed a drink after all that excitement and so a round of Kir Royales was sourced, while we considered the tasting menu to check we could eat everything listed on it.

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We confirmed that we don’t really have any food allergies, more mild intolerances (mostly to pork and in my case sulphites), and that everything on the menu would be just fine.

As it was spring it was perhaps no surprise to be served a pea and mint soup, this version nicely chilled and served with ricotta, lemon and spring onions. The emphasis was definitely on spring, with the sweetness of the peas coming through beautifully, and the lemon and ricotta adding a tang to the dish. Lovely!

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Next came a dish that the restaurant is, I understand, well known for, their heritage tomato salad. None of your mass-produced Dutch greenhouse tomatoes that taste of nothing here thank you very much. Instead a plain looking dish hit us with the full force of tomatoey flavours, this time with a sweet edge to it.

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The Parmesan crisp helped too! Moving on it was time for some flesh, in this instance cod, poached to perfection, the flakes almost translucent, with brown shrimps, which I love in any form you care to serve them, some buttery lettuce which was mild and pleasant, unlike some lettuce I’ve encountered which can either taste of nothing at all or the metal shelves of a fridge. There were sourdough crumbs too! What’s not to like?

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Meat was next, Gressingham duck with crushed celeriac, celery, walnuts and brown sauce. I’m sorry but calling it brown sauce in no way did it justice. Brown sauce is the stuff in bottles that Lynne throws over bacon sandwiches. This was not brown sauce. This was wonderful. The meat was pink and tender as it should be, the sauce was sublime and the celeriac excellent. I have a weakness for celeriac while regarding celery as a waste of chewing effort in the main. Here was a dish that delivered massively on the creamed celeriac, but also made me reconsider my disdain for celery.

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We opted to take the cheese course so that was next up, with five near perfect cheeses served with grapes and crackers. We mostly let the crackers be on the grounds that we knew there was a pre-dessert and a dessert to come, but the cheese itself was doomed the minute it hit the table!

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The pre-dessert proved an excellent raspberry confection, with frozen raspberries seeded through a raspberry parfait, with tiny little meringues and marshmallows scattered over the top. It was enough to freeze your fillings but the effect of biting into a frozen piece of raspberry and have it melt on your tongue is one of life’s small but significant pleasures.

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The meal so far was squarely on track, as was the wine flight we ordered with it. I should have taken notes but didn’t, though we did get into fairly intense conversation with the sommelier about some of the wilder shores of wine making that we’ve encountered over the years. I’m not sure if Welsh, Thai, Japanese or Belgian wine takes the prize as the least unlikely. And of course there’s always Yorkshire too! But more of all of that another day perhaps.

The actual dessert was thankfully small, delicate, refined looking but packing one hell of a taste punch. Ladies and gentlemen I give you the blueberry and lemon cheesecake with blueberry yogurt sorbet. While I’m not convinced that a yogurt sorbet isn’t something of a contradiction in terms, if it’s as good as this one was I’m not going to get into an argument over semantics, preparation methods and what actually constitutes a sorbet. No, what I’m going to do is shut up, pick up my spoon and demolish the dish in front of me. You can call it anything you like. I’m calling it sublime.

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After that it was time for a coffee, and to catch the train home where no further food would be required, even given the restrained nature of the very pleasant petit fours.

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The bill was quite a bit larger than it might have  been but we’d drunk a fair amount of wine, including a couple of extra glasses here and there. Was it worth it? That’s a resounding yes from me. Would I go back? Yes, though maybe not soon as there are so many restaurants I still want to try. “So many restaurants! So little time!” as we often say in these parts.

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