Asimakis Chaniotis is living up to the host of starred chefs who came before him at David Moore's Fitzrovia restaurant, adding a modern Greek twist to the classic French offering. James Stagg pays a visit
Pied à Terre has had its share of celebrated chefs since David Moore opened the Charlotte Street restaurant in 1991.
Richard Neat, Tom Aikens, Shane Osborn, Marcus Eaves and Andy McFadden have all cooked at the Fitzrovia institution, which has held at least one Michelin star (two during the tenure of Neat and Aikens) since 1993.
Now Moore has identified another talent in Asimakis Chaniotis, a chef who joined Pied à Terre in 2011 as chef de partie, working his way up to sous chef under Marcus Eaves and – via a stint running the now closed sister restaurant, L'Autre Pied – now heading up the flagship site. An Acorn Award winner in 2019, he has been executive chef since 2017 and is currently the youngest Michelin-starred executive chef in London.
Chaniotis and his 10-strong brigade create a wide range of options, with a chef's menu (£145), tasting menu (£105), various lunch menus and à la carte (£65 for a starter and main, plus £15 for dessert), all of which are now available for vegetarians and vegans, too.
"We've always been a restaurant that is fully inclusive," explains owner David Moore. "Guests can choose whatever menus they want – it doesn't have to be taken by the whole table."
As its name suggests, the focus of Pied à Terre is very much French cuisine, but Chaniotis is calling on his experience to bring a touch of Greece to the classically inspired dishes.
"David is encouraging me to include more Greek touches. I don't want to change the history and tradition of Pied à Terre as a French restaurant, so I prefer to put a few touches and ingredients in, rather than a whole recipe," he explains.
A meatball served with the snacks on the tasting menu is a case in point. It's based on a Greek meatball soup called giouvarlaki. However, instead of serving meatballs in veal stock and adding egg and lemon, Chaniotis makes an egg and lemon sabayon and serves it with veal tartare. They arrive with eggs kayiana, a Greek version of slow-cooked eggs, served here with feta and oregano.
But Chaniotis's creativity isn't restricted to Mediterranean cuisine. An à la carte starter of wagyu is served sushi-style on top of high-grade Japanese rice, accompanied by wild garlic, gorse flowers and Padrón pepper.
"The Yumenishiki rice I was specific about, and we're also specific about the water it cooks in. It has to be Volvic, because of the pH – it's the closest to the water in Kyoto," Chaniotis says.
The rice is soaked and dried before cooking, at which point all the broken grains must be removed. "Picking out the grains is hard work, but we have to make sure it's the best experience possible," he adds.
The same level of detail is demonstrated in the first course of the tasting menu: king prawn tartare, served perfectly diced and placed back on the plate in its original shape, complete with a meticulously cleaned head and tail, which has been preserved in soy. It is served on a splash of yuzu and vegetable stock sauce, made pink by the inclusion of red onion, alongside blue radish, black quinoa, rock samphire and basil.
One dish where Chaniotis has allowed his Greek roots to be fully exposed is agneau à la Grecque, an à la carte main that is essentially lamb served with a tick list of Greek ingredients: aubergine, yogurt, charred baby onions, potatoes, cucumber and parsley. The lamb loin is served with a ball of slow-cooked off-cuts wrapped in spinach and gold (described as lamb Ferrero Rocher on the menu), along with truffled potatoes and a quenelle of potato and aubergine.
"The dish resembles the golden age of Ancient Greece and the golden fleece," Chaniotis says. "That's the concept. And, of course, it features all the classic Greek ingredients."
Though the chef admits that Pied à Terre regulars like "a classic menu, and classic dishes", he is beginning to introduce some more modern ideas. Perhaps the most striking being the addition of ants to the ice-cream, providing a textural accompaniment to his forced Yorkshire rhubarb millefeuille dessert.
"It's good to challenge perceptions," Chaniotis says. "I need a challenge, and so do the guests. Some will kick off seeing an ant ice-cream, but I wanted to make it work. To be honest you'd never know it was ants and there are three other desserts to choose from. I just want to be innovative and provide an interesting experience."
From the a la carte
- Orkney scallops, Vornish sardines, Jerusalem artichokes, bagna cauda, bottarga
- Smoked quail, celeriac, winter truffles, Piedmont hazelnuts, confit egg yolk
- Gigha halibut, crushed potatoes, gently steamed mussels, saffron, sea urchin, sea sandwort, centennial grapes
- Beurre noisette tranche of skate wing, cauliflower, black curry, vanilla, fresh seaweed, grapefruit
- Red William pear millefeuille, Ivoire chocolate, bergamot, mulled wine pear sorbet, tonka icing sugar
- Caranoa cremeux, pistachios, port, beetroots, passion fruit, pistachio and amaretto ice-cream
£65 per person, plus £15 for dessert
Pied à Terre, 34 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2NH
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