When a restaurant receives high praise from demi-god critic Fay Maschler, you sit up and take notice. Throw into the mix Bodean’s founder André Blais, and all of a sudden we’re rather interested in Piquet. Namesake chef Allan Pickett has picked a frenetic spot in Fitzrovia spot for his first solo restaurant foray, a sidestreet step away from Tottenham Court Road, but not a world away from the likes of classic Galvin restaurants and heavyweight French establishments like L’Escargot where he trained and cut his teeth. They’ve even Franglaised up Allan to a degree: the name Piquet gives a firm nod so you know what to expect from the Anglo-French cuisine. The bold-as-brass menu is autumnal and seasonal at its very roots, so we were keen to see how things have taken shape at newly opened Piquet, listed as one of the Evening Standard’s Best Restaurants of 2015.
We’re sat in the in the 1920’s-style downstairs restaurant, with the soft red glow of the lamps in the background. Arriving first, some salmon and chive rillettes as amuses bouches burst with fresh and citrusy herbiness.
As seems to be the fashion, scallop tartar is a regular fixture on many menus at the moment. This version with marinated Scottish sea scallops was delicate and a good offset to the rich, seasonal courses ahead, with crisp apple orbs adding a lightly pickled contrast against the scallop slithers. The squid ink was delicately flecked without being overpowering, and parsley oil added a dash of emerald green.
One little piggy ordered the pork belly and was rewarded with what one might consider a mini main course, the slab of pressed suckling pig and the juicy prunes forging a hefty starter dish. A decent wedge of black pudding went well alongside the cauliflower purée, which had a velvety consistency.
Loin of venison with braised cabbage and chestnuts was a wintry dish, the venison juicily pink and perfect against the sharp elderberries. Buttery dauphinoise on the side made a gluttonous match.
Seeing as Fay mightily approved, the veal sweetbreads were top of our radar to try. This was a recommendation that paid off; rich in flavour but light in texture and perfectly roasted. Braised lettuce, Madeira jus, and some chestnut mushrooms with truffle shavings highlighted the subtle sweetbreads.
Bramley apple sorbet had a delicious caramelised tang against the sweet and tart preserved blackberries. The vanilla shortbread was, without doubt, the lightest and fluffiest shortbread we’d ever had, crumbling and disintegrating on the tongue into sugary crumb.
Chocolate and passion fruit custard stood out from the crowd on a very British dessert list strewn with plums, pears and apples. The sesame tuille biscuit shard cracked and crumbled into the passion fruit custard – perfect for scooping and dunking in the decadently gorgeous chocolate goo.
Pitched as one of the best restaurants of 2015, Piquet certainly kept its promise to deliver, with ‘the best of the great British larder’ a tour de force here. With dishes that are so closely connected to the seasons, Piquet is both classic in its French cookery yet staunchly British contemporary in approach, with some ingredients even taken from Allan’s mother’s garden. You can’t get produce closer to home than that to highlight the fruits of your labour.
92-94 Newman Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 3EZ