A little while ago Michael was a real cutie and surprised me with dinner at L’Autre Pied, a one Michelin star restaurant close to Bond Street. Granted, he’d got a good deal through Groupon, but if you can demonstrate “it’s the thought that counts” AND get a good bargain at the same time, you’re just winning in my eyes.

We arrived on a lovely, sunny Monday eve at 7:30pm to a sleek and impressive looking restaurant. It’s fair to say that I was excited for the meal ahead.

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Service: Upon arrival the greeter took our voucher without any hint of judgment or snobbery, which could easily have been the case at such an establishment, and showed us to our table. We were each promptly handed the 7-course tasting menu that we would be enjoying that evening, and were asked whether any allergies needed to be taken into consideration.

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Although I can (and will) eat everything, I thought that this act demonstrated thoughtfulness and that next level of customer service that one would expect from such an esteemed restaurant. In addition to this, when we found ourselves overly spoilt for choice with the very reasonably priced wine list, the sommelier allowed me to sample his recommendation before committing us to the bottle, which was for the best really as it was too full-bodied a white for my liking and I ended up choosing something lighter.

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The pre-starter arrived within the blink of an eye and the evening kicked off from there.

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I will say that considering the restaurant was half empty I’m not entirely sure what the rush was. A 7-course tasting menu is an experience that should be enjoyed leisurely, but our first course arrived before I’d even made a dent in our amuse bouche. Our waiter did note this however and slowed things down from there. Although very friendly and not overly attentive, per say, I do think that the location of mine & Michael’s table unfortunately lent itself to feeling constantly surrounding by staff, which I am not a big fan of.

The (very good) bread was served endlessly, but presumably I ate more than our waiter deemed acceptable as from course 4 onwards I was repeatedly asked whether “I still had more room” – Urm, yes, I always have more room, and I don’t really appreciate being frequently interrogated about my stomach capacity. I don’t know if he was genuinely just impressed but both Michael and I did get the slight impression that L’Autre Pied were trying to skimp on serving us the main dishes, which was only accentuated by the fact that we weren’t served any petits fours, despite that I recall the tables beside us receiving them at the end of their meal. What can I say, a girl’s gotta eat…

Ambience: The décor is certainly not reflective of the polished exterior, a one Michelin star restaurant, or even a high-end one, for that matter.

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I think (/hope) that most people would agree that red booth seating and gold flowered wallpaper illuminated by neon-green lighting doesn’t quite scream ‘upmarket’.

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Although I love casual dining done well, like at 8 Hoxton Square, Homeslice (reviewed twice) and Opera Tavern, I am not a fan of fancy dining with a hefty price tag without the frills to match, such as at L’Autre Pied. White linen tablecloths, for example, wouldn’t go amiss and would set the restaurant back all of, what, a few tasting menu’s worth to smarten the whole place up?

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In short, all of the interior is more than a little dated and falls very short of the surroundings that one fairly expects from a Michelin star restaurant.

Food: Time for food. First up, the bread. As already mentioned, the straight-out-of-the-oven, fresh, warm bread flowed freely throughout the evening, so Michael and I made sure to try everything that was on offer. I.e., a walnut & raisin bread, a savoury croissant-esque bread with olives, and a white onion brioche. The walnut & raisin bread was far superior to its counterparts, achieving serious praise from us both and on a par with the rosemary bread that I had the pleasure of feasting on at 8 Hoxton Square. It was springy, crunchy, nutty and sweet, all at once. It was divine, and we must have had 4 slices of it each. The others left a lot to be desired, with the croissant-type bread tasting like a cheap, ‘fake’ pastry, with the olives entirely mute, and the onion brioche reminding me of a bad, dry cake where the chef had forgotten to add the sugar. But, in fairness, this didn’t really matter, as the walnut & raisin bread easily redeemed them both.

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Our pre-starter was chicken liver parfait with burnt orange jelly served in a savoury tuile cup. The parfait was more liquid than usual, but this actually worked wonderfully with the crisp pastry. The parfait was also very rich and buttery, with the acidity of the burnt orange jelly balancing it beautifully. A very light nibble and a fantastic start.

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Then came our amuse bouche of courgette mousse with basil oil & hazelnut powder, served in a tea cup. I’m still not too sure why it was served in a cup as it certainly wasn’t fluid enough to drink, but I suppose it did make for sturdier scraping of the last foamy morsels, so I shan’t complain too much. This was an impressively light & airy taster. It had a wonderfully smooth texture that was contrasted by the dry, snow-like hazelnut powder that had been sprinkled over it. I could, however, have done without the chives as, firstly, I don’t personally like many members of the onion family (and chives is not one of them) and, secondly, they completely overpowered the delicate flavours of the courgette and hazelnut.

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The first course of violet artichoke, fennel, crème fraiche and belper knolle was as tasty as it was pretty; humble green vegetables were transformed into a true delight. The artichoke was soft & juicy and the fennel harsh & crunchy, the crème fraiche added a light creaminess and the presence of fresh dill was well-noted and enjoyed. The dusting of belper knolle tied together all of the flavours and textures, providing an overall clean & crisp tasting plate of food.

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Our next course remained on the vegetarian track, consisting of heritage tomatoes, dried olives & vanilla. I found the colourful plate of food hugely appetising. What at first seemed like a curious combination of ingredients turned out to be rather delicious and well-executed. Although immensely simple, the array of fresh, firm, flavoursome tomatoes with differing levels of sweetness were a joy unto themselves, but combined with the crunch of the savoury dried olives and the just-detectable hint of sweet vanilla, this was a very good plate of tomatoes. (But, still, just a plate of tomatoes).

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The cod, brassicas, pink grapefruit and pearl barley was OK. The cod was poached to perfection with the fish flaking apart at the touch of a knife, which was delightful together with the texture of the firmer pearl barley. However, the brassicas (broccoli, romanesco and cauliflower) were all cooked far too al dente, with the raw cauliflower couscous simply unpleasant. The pink grapefruit was lost amongst the bitter vegetables and I found the dish overall a little bland, and in need of a good dash of seasoning.

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Our last savoury course of roe deer, beetroot jelly, cacao and peanuts was perhaps the best of all. The smell alone had both Michael and I salivating before our plates had even reached the table. The deer loin was unbelievably tender with an almost caramelized edge, although, despite the deceiving pinkness in the below photo, the meat was a little overdone for my liking, cooked to medium rather than medium-rare.

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The loin sat atop slow-cooked shoulder that had developed an intensely deep, smoky flavour. Not a huge lover of game it was perhaps a tad too strong for my taste, but I could nonetheless appreciate the time & work that had gone into the stew. The beetroot jelly was both sharp & sweet which, together with the bitterness of the cacao, cut through the richness of the deer nicely. I love contrasting textures so I really enjoyed the inclusion of peanuts, which added nuttiness to the flavour mix.

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The pre-dessert was a refreshing apple mousse and mango sorbet with coconut crumbs. It was a lovely palette cleanser and really well-balanced. The apple mousse was light, creamy & tart, marrying perfectly with the thick & sweet mango sorbet. The coconut crumbs gave added texture and a hint of welcomed flavour.

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Our final course and dessert was rhubarb, lemon, almond and yoghurt. The rhubarb was very firm, sharp & sweet, whilst the yoghurt was airy & creamy. The almond biscuit introduced great crunch, although the meringue was a let down; stiff in structure and no better than your average supermarket-bought. It was, however, a light dessert that wasn’t overly sweet, and a decent finish.

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All in all, the 7 courses we sampled were attractively presented and tasty enough, but none of them blew me away and they all lacked any inkling of a ‘wow factor’. Our first course of artichoke, fennel, crème fraiche and belper knolle was perhaps the one I found most creatively impressive, but even that was nothing exceptional. Although I did thoroughly enjoy the deer it was a classic plate of food and I couldn’t identify anything technically unique or notable. The cod dish was bland and our desserts were simply good, clean, fruity desserts. In conclusion, I felt that the dishes focused more on style than substance.

Price: The 7-course tasting menu ordinarily costs £62.00 per person, but with the Groupon voucher it’s half price at £31.00 per person. Thus our total bill was £181.12 for 2 tasting menus, a bottle of wine ‘Tomero, Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina, 2012’ (£37.00), and service calculated on the usual, full price (£20.12). Based on the ambience of L’Autre Pied and the food that they put out I would say that it’s just about worth experiencing IF you get the voucher, otherwise it is most definitely overpriced. The evening was not reflective of the restaurant having a star, which does of course tie in with the question as to why a Michelin-starred restaurant would need to advertise on Groupon in the first place. If you do decide to give it a go or have been I’d love to hear what you think!

6/10

L'Autre Pied Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal