Years and years ago, Allan Pickett taught me to fillet a fish. My knife skills are appalling (think Nigella but with considerably less dexterity) and he was very sweet and patient. It was at a special event at Billingsgate for Seafish, and by the end of it, I remember feeling quite clever as we sat down to eat fish we’d prepared ourselves. I still buy the odd whole fish now and give it a go, just to keep my hand in. At the time, Allan was head chef at Plateau in Canada Place, but we’ve kept in touch and I’ve known for a while that he’s been planning to open his own restaurant.
Piquet (Allan’s new venture with partner, André Blais) opened in September in Fitrovia and as we were in London for an event anyway, Allan invited us along. The Chime for Change event, in association with Kellogg’s was at the Hospital Club where we were lucky enough to listen to the gorgeous Ellie Goulding sing some of her songs live and with just an acoustic band. Her voice is phenomenal. Learn all about the campaign by watching this video and following the hashtag #bringcolourback.
After all this excitement, we’d planned to walk to Fitzrovia but got lost and ended up having to grab a cab. There are some major building works going on in the area which is a shame, but when it’s all done the restaurant is in a great location.
There are two floors to the restaurant: the ground floor is a warm and informal bar area called The Fir Room where you can linger over cocktails or dine without reservations on little tasting plates. Down the (creaky!) stairs, though, is the restaurant proper, with rich coffee banquette seating, glossy ivory tables, loads of dark wood and some beautiful copper panelling, and at the far end the bustling kitchen is open, which I love.
We were warmly welcomed and offered a glass of champagne by the trendy jeans-clad staff. General Manager Alain was really attentive and instead of deciding upon a bottle of wine, he insisted on bringing us various glasses to complement our food orders. The wine list is great (bit heavy on the French, but that’s understandable) but from £4-odd a glass it’s outstanding value.
As we were choosing from the menu, we nibbled on some delicious, savoury duck rillettes with crisp sweet/sour home made pickles and sourdough toast (I want the duck too):
The menu is a really interesting mixture of what I would consider classic French cookery, but created with some fabulous English ingredients. It’s a match made in heaven. I started with a heritage beetroot salad, with goats cheese mousse, black figs and cobnuts, the earthy sweetness of the beetroot perfectly offset by the slight tartness of the goat’s cheese – just basically autumn on a plate, especially with the crunch of those incredible Kentish cobnuts too. My salad was perfectly matched with a Grüner Veltliner, which was pineappley and fresh with lots of lime and went well with the earthiness of the beetroot.
For my main course, I was tempted by a white bean and cod cheek casserole with baby squid, and also by a deliciously autumnal pumpkin and barley stew. Mr E chose line caught sea bass with a really interesting yeasted cauliflower purée (which was then expertly teamed with a 100% Touraine Chenin Blanc: nutty, oily and just delicious with the delicate fish). I ended up choosing a Scottish loin of venison with a fresh and fruity elderberry sauce, braised cabbage and soft, sweet chestnuts, served with an earthy, savoury faggot, or meatball, which was bursting with flavour.
My venison was teamed with a soft, light Tempranillo with juicy red berries and lovely pepperiness which smelt of sweeties. I probably would have chosen something a bit more ‘meaty’ but the Tempranillo was the perfect choice.
For dessert, Allan suggested the assiette gourmande, which is a platter of all their delicious desserts, including sharp apple sorbet, lemon filled choux, a silky, dark chocolate mousse with a crisp tuille, soft lemon sponge… all manner of yumminess.
We visited on a slow night, but I really want to go back to experience the restaurant when it’s bustling and busy. I really hope the restaurant does well, so pop along. And tell Allan I sent you.
We were the very lucky guests of Piquet Restaurant, 92-94 Newman Street, London, W1T 3EZ.