19 October 2021 · Author Profile · Behind the Cookbook
For more than 30 years, David Moore’s Michelin-starred restaurant Pied à Terre has served some of the best food in London. Pied à Terre has long attracted and nurtured the UK’s top culinary talent, too, starting with chef Richard Neat, who co-founded the restaurant with David Moore in 1991, through to the current executive head chef, Athens-born Asimakis Chaniotis, who, in 2018 aged just 28, became the youngest chef in London to earn a Michelin star.
Pied à Terre: Celebrating 30 years tells the story of the restaurant through the decades and includes recipes for many of its best-loved dishes. To mark the book’s arrival on ckbk, we spoke to restaurateur David Moore, who looks back on the restaurant’s history and the making of the book.
Charlotte Street, the location of London restaurant stalwart Pied à Terre, was also where the film ‘Sliding Doors’ was filmed. The ’90s movie alternates between two separate storylines, each showing a path that Gwyneth Paltrow’s character’s life could have taken depending on whether or not she caught a particular train.
30 years… describes some of these such moments in the restaurant’s history. One such was a chance meeting between Moore and Felix Dennis, a publishing tycoon and regular customer, that changed everything for the restaurant – at a point when their finances were particularly precarious. Moore says, “The bank manager was really unhappy with us at that time. We were not good bank customers!”
Leaving the restaurant one day to speak to the bank manager, Moore bumped into Dennis who, after hearing about the restaurant’s financial woes, immediately offered to write a cheque to cover the shortfall. Moore emphasizes just how much of a ‘sliding door’ moment that was – the chance meeting took place on a street that Moore rarely chose to walk down. “From the restaurant, I would often not even walk down Goodge Street. I’d walk down Colville Place – so the day that I was walking down Goodge Street, it was unusual for me to be there.”
Moore sees his success with Pied à Terre as part fate, part positivity. He says: “How I have survived 30 years is by tending to find the silver lining, to pivot to the new, the fresh, the different, and always see the upside. Always look for the upside.”
The idea of this book (“a gift from Covid,” as Moore describes it) came during lockdown. With the restaurant closed, Moore had time for reflection, as well as the chance to develop some positive changes for the restaurant.
Publisher Peter Marshall featured Pied à Terre in Chef magazine to celebrate the restaurant’s 30th birthday and, having done some research, Marshall realized that there had not yet been a cookbook from Pied à Terre. Lockdown offered an opportunity to create a book that would celebrate the restaurant’s three decades.
Lockdown also brought possibilities for change and renewal. Moore was able to push through a complete menu reorganization at Pied à Terre. “The victim is choice. There is now less choice,” he explains. “But it means that the actual dishes that we’re serving, they’re more and more refined, as we have fewer dishes to execute. If you come at lunchtime, you can have the same john dory with foie gras sauce and the same smoked quail as you would on the evening menu.”
The book is a beautiful record of the restaurant’s history, working through Moore’s memories of each decade and the head chefs of the time, including his founding business partner Richard Neat (1990–1995), Tom Aikens (1996–1999), Shane Osborn (2000–2010), Marcus Eaves (2010–2015), Andy McFadden (2015–2017) and, since 2017, Asimakis Chaniotis.
The book also features “60-odd recipes, which Asimakis Chaniotis kind of wrote,” says Moore. “Well, he wrote them in a typically cheffy manner… So my wife got involved as editor. That was probably the biggest challenge, making sure that the recipes did what they were meant to do.”
The book describes the highs and lows of working with different personalities in the Pied à Terre kitchen over the years – but how does Moore now see his role in working with his chefs?
“My take on menus is that I try to intervene as little as possible. There is a veto if a dish isn’t looking or feeling right; you have to shout out and say it. But Asimakis has editorial control. He does what he wants; he is the creator of those dishes. The best way to get the best out of him is to give him the liberty to do that… an analogy would be telling Picasso to stop doing all that blue stuff when he was in his Blue Period.”
“Right now we have the smoked quail dish [a Pied à Terre signature dish] back on the menu. Chef makes a tagliatelle of celeriac, rolls it up into a rose shape, braises that, serves it with hazelnuts, wild mushroom purée, a soft poached egg yolk on top with quail breast and confit quail legs. Then he serves it in a smoking dome, so there’s quite a lot of theatre to it when it arrives at the table. It tastes delicious!”
Thirty years ago the business and the kitchen was run very differently. Moore says: “Back then you didn’t have the Internet. You didn’t have the easy way of getting your name out there to advertise for vacancies. We can now put a note out on our website and we can start getting CVs fairly quickly.”
It was all hands on deck at many points in the restaurant’s history. When Tom Aikens first took over, Moore was working on the floor but he was also doing the pastry: “I would start very early in the morning making the pastry with Tom, setting the whole section up, then go and set the whole restaurant up. And then when an order came in, I would have to throw an apron on, go down to the kitchen, prepare the dessert, come back with it. It was absolute madness. But we got through!”
Another notable difference is the change in culture and general knowledge about food.
“Everybody’s pretty much an expert nowadays, aren’t they? We are currently serving a Wagyu hot dog. It’s a Highland Wagyu hot dog. Someone asked me, “Is that a Japanese Wagyu here in Scotland or is it a Wagyu Angus crossbreed?” What?! Where did that question come from? Well, it transpired that it is a cross between Wagyu and Angus. But it just shows the level of knowledge that people have now.”
Moore also reflects how the sophistication of the dishes and the techniques have moved on since the restaurant’s inception in the 1990s with all the chefs’ “little tricks and gels and powders.”
In 2019, Moore decided to transform a bar on the first floor of the restaurant into a chef’s table space, co-sponsored by Martin Moore kitchens and appliance company Gaggenau. The idea was originally to have Asimakis Chaniotis cooking there with a kitchen-table feel, but the space has now morphed into a cookery school with some of the classes taught by Moore himself.
Yet again Pied à Terre has been able to pivot to respond to changing tastes and attitudes, and Pied à Terre: celebrating 30 years is an inspirational testament to that ability.