Wednesday, 13 April 2011

L'Autre Pied: Note perfect and immensely pleasurable

Oh, what to do in all of this lovely summery weather except to pop down to L'Autre Pied for a spot of lunch outside?

Well, actually, I missed out on my London Restaurant Week booking and was desperate to try it, having heard great things about this michelin starred restaurant, I looked into menus and times - turns out the very reasonably priced two course lunch menu at £18.95 is available on Saturdays, so I went ahead and booked(It is also available for pre-theatre dinner Monday- Friday).

Then when the reservation rolled around, low and behold, the sunshine was upon us, so my companion and I took an outdoor table where we could watch the world of Marylebone go by. I did pop my head inside, and it looked very modern, sleek and chic, but I wasn't going to pass up a rare opportunity to dine al fresco.

The set menu prompted a little bit of a sigh for a coeliac to begin with - pastas and pastry featured in all of the dishes. Not to worry, the manager was at hand who had a full grasp on the gluten free situation and explained what could be modified. When she realised the mains couldn't be modified she popped inside to consult the chef and said that if I still wished to have a set menu price I could have pork belly as a main. Yes, and yes thank you!

As we tucked into a delightful bottle of chilled Viogner (nothing like drinking at lunchtime to make one feel that it's the weekend), they brought out bread for my friend and some gluten free crackers for me. I recognized them as the Tru Free High Fiber crackers, which I like, so it was fine with me. I was a bit surprised they did have gluten free bread though, crackers with butter being quite a different thing to bread and butter. People don't describe the core of their business as their "crackers and butter" now do they?

Then came the food. An unexpected amuse bouche. And boy was my bouche amused! It was a ode to the parsnip, singing it's praises to the heavens; Parsnip puree, concentrated caramelized parsnip drizzle, topped with parsnip crisps. The world drifted away and we were silent closing our eyes when eating this divine creation. Creamy, deep, rich, sweet, crispy. Never has a parsnip reached such heights.

The next course, our starters, were scallops (originally with a thin film of ravioli, but not for me) and spring onions with marinated spring vegetables, in a lemongrass and ginger consommé. Isn't it just the prettiest thing you've ever seen in a bowl? Don't let it's beautiful and simple appearance fool you, the asian flavours were surprisingly and pleasingly intricate; sweet, salty and fragrant. Who knew that consommé kicks the ass of it's weedy cousin, broth? Broth, you are done sir, I am a consommé girl from now on.

Now I have to tell you, I don't like pork belly. I am always amazed the same animal that brings us the irresistible delights of bacon, prosciutto and chorizo, also delivers the dreary direness that is "pork chop". Don't ever try to feed me a pork chop. Next to pork chop in my head was pork belly. People go mad for it - at events they started popping up on all the canape menus. I've tried it, say, four times, each time with someone who is a huge fan. Even at a favourite restaurant of mine Polpo, it was a no. I'm not going to start getting fussy about set menu gluten free exchange offerings though - and you know, fifth time lucky.

What can I say. I love L'Autre Pied pork belly. It was exquisite. I ate the whole thing, savouring each mouthful. My friend had a bite and came down with a severe case of food jealously. There wasn't a nasty layer of chewy fat between the crackling and the meat, as there so often is with pork belly. It jumped from tender melting juicy meat straight to crispy salty crackling. The combination was too much to resist. I dare you to try it and not fall in love. The purees and pink grapefruit sauce gave just the perfect amount of acidity to complement the pork. Even the broccoli was faultless. And again, could that be a more perfect rectangle? My friend's veal lasagne was equally pretty and precise.

Continuing in the excellent service of the very well trained staff, we were offered desert (three courses £22.50), and they let me know what I could have gluten free without me asking. Alas, we were perfectly full. With a little sparkle in the eye and spring in our step from the wine, we took inspiration from the people of Marylebone and trotted down the road to Selfridges. It was all very ladies who lunch I can tell you. And what a lunch. I will be back. The spring tasting menu is calling me, and who am I to refuse a call from such a fine suitor?

Gluten Free Knowledge: ★★★★
Gluten Free Range: ★★★★
Taste: ★★★★★ (can I give it six? What do you mean it's the sunshine and wine talking? oh, go on then)★
Atmosphere: ★★★★★

Verdict: Exquisite, memorable and very delicious fine dining.

3 comments:

  1. What a find. I'm in London quite often and write a travel blog. I'll be mentioning your blog today in my post about where to eat lunch in London.

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  2. Hi! Posted on your site but thought I would here too. Really glad you like it. Thanks for the mention in your blog.

    (and please tell me you won't go to The Ritz for the tea, it would break my heart!)

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  3. I ate at their sister restaurant last month and called ahead the evening before - warm gf bread on the table and I just felt so comfortable - there was no fuss at all and I enjoyed a really great lunch. The staff were just spot great; knowledgeable, discreet and professional.

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