Saturday, 29 September 2012

L'Autre Pied: Food as Art (but unfortunatley not as food)

Food as art.  Art as food,  G-Star recently called this into question.  Had we strayed too far from what a plate of food was meant to be?  Number one, provide sustenance.  Secondly, taste good.  One and two together should bring happiness.  A belly full of tasty food is a wonderful thing.  Only then should we take into consideration how it looked.  I agreed to a point - two dishes, same ingredients and method deployed - one can taste better if it presented in a more appetising way.  But I can see where he is coming from.  First and foremost when I leave a restaurant I want to have enjoyed the taste of the food I have just eaten.  Only then will I revel in the beauty of its presentation and the chefs techniques.

So it is a great shame when an incredibly talented chef focuses too heavily on technique and presentation and forgets to make it taste good.  Andy Macfadden, it seems, has fallen into that trap.  The food at L'Autre Pied is packed full of technique.  His skill is obvious in every dish.  In the main it also looks beautiful.  Each plate a piece of art.  But did I leave with that warm glow you get from eating wonderful food? Sadly not.

Again I was out with work so the meal was gratis and we didn't have access to the full menu - a pared down two choice offering  instead (although I should at this point commend the restaurant for being incredibly accommodating to those whose choice was restricted).

We shared some amouse bouche - goats curd, okay, the highlight a hare samosa.  A real treat.  The accompanying bread was fantastic - in particular the onion brioche.

We were then given an extra course of what appeared to be a pesto mousse with toasted pine-nuts (no dish was explained - a great shame).  This was fine, it did not get me excited though.

I went for the artichoke - fried to a crisp, it came with parsley oil and blobs of a hazelnut.  The oil was bitter, the hazelnut reminded me of Nutella - it didn't do anything for me. Others had the crab garganelli (kind of like penne) - the pasta was just too thick, the crab got lost, the belper knolle cheese was barely evident.  All in all not that impressive.

Next up was cocoa coated venison, beetroot and smoked goats curd.  The venison was perfect.  Soft, moist, moreish.  The beetroot and the sweet onions worked well but the goats curd was a strange addition.  It also needed something more.  Some dauphinoise potatoes perhaps? Something to offset the sweet and sour combination of cocoa and onions.  Unfortunately it left me wanting.

To end I had the yuzu and mandarin parfait, poppy seeds and yoghurt sorbet.  A dish of techniques - beautifully presented. The parfait was a little sour for my liking, the poppy crisps the highlight of the meal.  But it didn't really all come together.  You can see what is being attempted.  There is sweet and sour, crispy and smooth, even a jelly - tastes and textures contrasting everywhere.  And it looked beautiful.  But it didn't make me happy.

So what to make of L'Autre Pied?  Here is a restaurant blessed with an exceptionally talented chef.  There is no doubt Andy Macfadden can cook.  A mountain of effort has been put into each dish.  No one can say the cooking is lazy.  But that breeds problems.  I think that the kitchen is trying so hard to let everyone out front know that they are top of their game, that they have forgotten what it is their are meant to be doing - cooking food that leaves you full and happy.  Sadly L'Autre Pied, despite the obvious talent, falls at the first hurdle.

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