David Moore, Asimakis Chaniotis: 'It's going to take more than a global pandemic to close Pied à Terre'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

A lot has happened in the UK capital in the past three decades.

Brit pop, the rise and fall of New Labour, The Queen mother's 100th birthday, Big Brother, Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, the SARS epidemic, the 7/7 bombings, the Civil Partnership Act, Usain Bolt, the financial crisis, the smoking ban, Nick Clegg and David Cameron's coalition government, the London Olympics, same-sex marriage, Brexit and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. These are but a few of the things we have lived through as a nation.

Throughout the tumult, London's longest-dating Michelin-starred restaurant, Pied à Terre, still stands strong. On December 16th 2021, it will be celebrating its 30th birthday.

'It's the people that you meet and look after that will give you the greatest satisfaction'

David Moore opened the restaurant with chef Richard Neat at just 27 years old - almost unheard of in the 1980s and early 1990s. 

"When I look back, fond memories from the early days are few and far between," he said.

"I opened a restaurant with my best pal, Richard, and I recollect going to the sollicitors' to organise contracts and things - Nick our chairman said we need to have a dispute resolution system organise. We sat there and said, 'we agree on everything, we don't need it.' But as soon as we turned the key in the door, we disagreed on everything." 

Back then, he said, "the landscape was very different. There were few restaurants of any note - which played to our advantage because we made crazily good food on a shoestring."

"The sweet moments have truly been the people coming through the door. Some of those people have become lifelong friends," he said, noting that he spoke to a guest the other day, who, aged 65, has been visiting the restaurant since he was 35. "I do remember him - with various companions," he chuckled.

Being the restaurant owner, with the level of respect that awarded him, "you get to know a lot of really great, interesting people, and that's probably the brightest shining star for me. 

"People say running a restaurant is hard work. People say, 'you've got such a shitty lifestyle,' but I'm out every night. I'm here in the same place, but I meet new people every night - and it's the people that you meet and look after that will give you the greatest satisfaction." 

Many cooks

Restaurants aren't known for keeping chefs for three decades, and Pied à Terre is no exception: after Richard Neat came Tom Aikens, followed by Shane Osborn in 2000; Marcus EavesAndy McFadden, and finally, in 2017, current executive Asimakis Chaniotis, who earned his first star at the restaurant aged just 28.

"If you look at our changing chefs' scenario, each one is different." 

"Those are the big moments," he said, and the great moments have been interspersed with low moments: getting a star, which happened within a year of opening, getting a second star, which the restaurant held between 1996 and 2012,  losing one of the stars, regaining a star with Asimakis at the helm, and finally being able to reopen as a successful restaurant after the the pandemic.

"It's a crazy life," David sighed. "It's a bit like being in a rock band."


While the past two years have been drastically destructive for the restaurant industry, David said, "I always say that Covid has been good to me." 

"It's been good to the business. Privately, I used to sit down when they were doing the three-weekly announcements, thinking, 'another three weeks, another three weeks.' I was enjoying it. At home, cooking, with Val, with the kids." 

The restaurateur was, to an extent, blissfully unaware of his own predicament. 

"I assumed that the landlord was going to give me rent-free. He used a phrase that I didn't know, he said 'we will put the rental income into abeyance,' and I thought, 'that's great.'" 

"That first lockdown - we got furlough, we got grants, we're not paying any rent, I thought, 'this is like a fully-paid holiday. When we came back and he said, 'we need to take it out of abeyance,' I went, 'dictionary, Google... suspension.'"

And the penny dropped. "'How are you planning to pay me?' he said.- welI, I was grateful for those months not understanding abeyance, because I didn't realise I was still going to be paying that £10,000 a month," he laughed.

A catalyst for change

For the restaurant, Asimakis said, the pandemic "was a wake-up call. It was a catalyst of change." 

Upon their return, they reduced their shifts from 11 to eight - in other words, to a four-day week - they scrapped the lunch menu, the chef's tasting menu and the vegetarian menu. As David puts it, now, "if you're vegetarian, you're vegan."

Asimakis added: "There was so much stress, so much prep. Now, having the menus that we do have and being fully booked every day means that we can give customers what they want without getting carried away with what everyone else is doing."

"It consolidates the quality," David said. "We've got a limited number of dishes, and they're all crowd pleasers."

"The kitchen is able to increase its consistency - and that's what a great restaurant is about, being able to consistently produce the same dishes."

As they have been serving one a month since June, from November 30th, a ten-course tasting menu will pay homage to the restaurant's history, created by alumni chefs and Asimakis - with dishes like Andy McFadden's squid tagliatelle, Tom Aikens' terrine with artichoke, Richard Neat's John Dory with foie gras sauce and Asimakis' smoked quail dish. 

But it's not just the rolling specials that have been bringing people in - a strong, female-led front of house team, comprised of "many intelligent, bright women," David said, has drawn many compliments, and the restaurant's vegan menu has proved extremely popular. 

"Akis is genuinely very original in the way his food looks, but his innovations on the vegan menu have paid a very big dividend," he explained, as increasingly customers have visited the restaurant especially to try it.

Asimakis said: "Eventually, a lot of places will end up going there - nowadays, more and more, we have a hundred cover service and forty people are vegans." 

"That's great for us, because we're here and we're doing something different."

What is Pied à Terre's secret to longstanding success?

For David, the only reason his restaurant is still standing is because it has fought hard to remain so.

"It's survival of the fittest," he said. "Pied à Terre opened in a recession in 1991.

"We were borne off a recession, and you might think that at some stage that we're going to have to go by the way as well and somebody else is going to take over, somebody else will inhabit 34 Charlotte Street. 

But not just yet. "It's going to take more than a global pandemic to close Pied à Terre."

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 25th November 2021

David Moore, Asimakis Chaniotis: 'It's going to take more than a global pandemic to close Pied à Terre'