David Moore, who won the coveted “Lifetime Achievement” award in this year’s Wine List Confidential, has been at the helm of Fitzrovia’s Pied à Terre, which has triumphed over fire, financial crises and the pandemic, maintaining a Michelin star since 1993. He talks frankly to Douglas Blyde…
What is your vintage?
August 4th 1964 at Beach Hill Clinic, Monaghan, Co Monaghan, Ireland.
What have you appreciated from that year?
My most memorable tipple was a bottle of Pétrus gifted to me by a restaurant investor for my 40th birthday which was drunk on my 50th with my wife, Val and two of my closest friends.
Did you have a happy or harrowing childhood?
Mixed. I lived in Ireland until I was 12. Monaghan was at the heart of the troubles on the south side of the border. I was pretty oblivious to it until 1974, aged 10, when a huge bomb ripped through the town. That same day there were three bombs in Dublin. In total, 33 died with 300 injured. It was retaliation against the IRA by unionists, IE Protestants, our “people”. That was the day my mum decided we were to leave Ireland. Arriving in Blackpool, April 1977, was like going to Vegas. But everyone wanted to hear the little Irish boy speak. Plus, Blackpool still had signs in windows of the guest houses saying, “NO Dogs, Blacks or Irish”. Fun times!
Do you feel Irish?
What was your first job in hospitality?
I used to empty the bottle skips for mum in Monaghan at her small hotel with a restaurant and bars. In Blackpool, I was a KP in a small hotel from 14 years old. I always loved having my own money.
What did you do at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons?
Having started as a waiter, I was promoted after my first year to assistant head waiter. I was very fortunate that the head waiter left in the following year, so I was able to move up to head waiter in my second year and assistant restaurant manager in my third.
Who was your mentor?
I never had a mentor; it’s something which would have helped, but I just had to figure things out on my own.
How did you feel when Pied à Terre was ravaged by fire in 2012?
The fire was devastating, but once we got past the initial shock, it became clear that it would be a sliver lining with a new building fit for purpose.
That same year the venue lost its second Michelin star – is the plan to get it back?
Head chef, Asimakis Chaniotis is developing his style and artistry. When it is properly formed we will get the second star back. But it would be sweet to get it on our 30th anniversary in Michelin, which is next year.
In what areas has Pied à Terre been a trendsetter?
I don’t think we have been a trendsetting restaurant. I think we’ve been more timeless classic and have continued doing what we do to a very high standard.
How many bins are in stock at Pied à Terre at any one time?
The wine list had about 800 bins and is now trimmed to approximately 600 as we work towards a more concise list.
And in bond?
At least 200 items.
What is a highlight?
Many guests will book simply because they have noticed an exceedingly good, yet excellently priced wine on the list. We are down to our final two bottles of Coche-Dury 2008, which are listed at £950 when they will retail between £1,200-1,600.
What is the house wine in your own home?
François Chidaine Mont-Louis.
Whatever happened to your sister restaurant, L’Autre Pied?
Simon Rogan wanted it and was happy to pay the asking price. I loved that particular site but was very happy not to have the worry of a second site during lockdown.
When you dine out, how do you rate the experience?
I’m always appraising what other people do, but specifically if in a Michelin environment I use a decimal point. I visited Chapter One in Dublin, it is a Two Star, but nearer to Three star: 2.7, maybe 2.8. There can be such diversity at a one star that I think the decimal point is essential.
Are guests disappointed if you’re not working during their visit?
Wouldn’t you be disappointed…!
What other restaurants are you involved with?
I’m working on a new vegan restaurant.
What’s on the restaurant’s playlist?
Lucy Pearl, Grace Jones, Kurt Maloo, Judith Hill, Erykah Badu and CeeLo Green.
How much do you attribute your success to your wife?
Totally. Val sense-checks everything and helps to keep the wheels on. She is a director, so has a say at the strategic level and is in charge of the purse strings including all salaries and suppliers. Any money going out goes through her.
What ingredient are you allergic to?
Bizarrely I can’t eat Seabass. Long story, but after a salmonella poisoning, my body mis-recognises something. Very odd.
Would you ever send a warring member of staff to therapy?
I have done that with a chef who was particularly talented but had issues. I wonder what he made of it?
Have you ever had to break up a fight between guests?
No, but one drunk customer tried to hit me. I saw it coming and stepped back and he fell on his arse.
Who is your favourite shirt designer?
Where do you head to, to relax?
It used to be our mobile home in Ireland until we recently bought a place in Margate, and I love it there.
Are you likely to open a “Pied Sur Mer” on that coast?
Margate is to be chill-ville so no restaurant there.
Pét-nat or vintage Champagne?
Big fan of Cerdon Bugey, but can never refuse vintage Champagne.
Negroni or Martini? And how do you make yours?
Negroni, which needs to be stirred with the little finger 79 times.
Cheese or chocolate?
Musical at the theatre or sci-fi in the cinema?
I’m not a sci-fi fan, but give me a series of Vikings and I’m there.
Daily Mail or Guardian?
Sparkling water or still?
Tell us something surprising about yourself?
I sleep walk.
What is your motto?
“Experience preferred, but not essential”.
Would you prefer to share an entire bottle of single malt Scotch with Greta Thunberg, Peter Sellers or Margaret Thatcher? And what would you choose?
I can’t drink whiskey – we just don’t get on well. So a fine white Burgundy, and it is a tough call between Sellers and Thatcher. Thatcher wins…
Buy the Pied à Terre book, “30 Years Created by Pied à Terre” here: https://www.pied-a-terre.co.uk/30-years-created-by-pied-a-terre
This article was originally published on thedrinksbusiness.com and has been shared with permission.