NOW CLOSED : Piquet, W1: Piquing my interest in Mr Pickett.
I might as well just give in to my inner OAP. I’m happy to fantasize about a post-work trek across town to Hackney or Peckham Rye but unless the tube is going to deposit me at the mouth of my chosen restaurant, I’m not going to be schlepping across the darkling plains of E5 or SE15 to eat in a noisy food destination, surrounded by people who assume I’ve lost my way because I am still in my work gear and I’m not under 35. Not when I can go up the road to the comfort of Piquet.
Piquet is the baby of Mr Allan Pickett, formerly of Plateau restaurant, in that destination of despair, Canary Wharf, another place I never want to travel to after work. I’m very glad he’s now rocked up on my very doorstep, at what was the arse end of Oxford Street, surrounded by bright shiny new developments, in what is a rapidly transforming area. Crossrail has meant the spectacular regeneration of that dodgy/dingy section of the self-proclaimed “most famous shopping street in the world.” This feels like a savvy move for Mr Pickett, dragging the food-cred of Fitzrovia further south, to form a little triangle with The Newman Street Tavern and The Newman Arms.
Upstairs there is a dark, narrow, intimate space for drinks and nibbles. We don’t tarry there but go downstairs to a more brightly-lit and welcoming room, double the size, as it extends under the adjoining property. The property lawyer in me is thinking about split reversions and two landlords, but that’s because I haven’t had a drink yet and I’m still in work mode. It’s a curse.
There is no natural light yet it doesn’t feel oppressive and it reminds me of those casino rooms in Las Vegas with no natural light or clocks; you have no idea what time it is outside and lose track. I do wonder what that will be like in the height of summer but no matter, we have a whole winter to get through yet.
The menu is clear and varied. There is a great value set lunch and dinner offering, available 12pm-3pm and 5:30pm to 6:45pm at £16.50 for two courses and £19.50 for three. Obviously we don’t order that and nor do we go for the tasting menu at £45 for five courses, £75 with matching wine. We do, however, choose a pleasant and reasonable white Rhône at £28 because we need to get me off the split reversion and lease trail, pronto.
I am with the lovely D, who lives, breathes, writes about and shares food. We discuss ten different types of salt for a good half hour and see nothing wrong in that. I love her, obviously.
We agree that we will create our own tasting menu by splitting each course in half and sharing. This is one of my favourite things to do in a restaurant and reduces my fomo to manageable proportions.If you are regular reader, you will be able to guess the attitude of C to such sharing-shenanigans, C, who, seeing my plaintive stare at his Fischer’s strudel ate the last spoonful with an “it’s for your own good.” I may have to delete the Sky channel which streams his beloved Canadian hockey, for his own good.
D and I struggle to choose but I go for heritage beetroot and goat’s cheese mousse, black figs and hazelnut salad. To adopt another’s epithet, this is not groundbreaking and we could make it at home, but if I was cooking it wouldn’t be as elegant as the one presented here.
Arranged in layers of perfect discs, with a sharp/sweet dressing and even sweeter figs, it delivers lighter than air cylinders of ethereal goat’s cheese mousse, wrapped in bric pastry, with toasted hazelnuts scattered around the plate. This has as much resemblance to your average gastropub beetroot and goat’s cheese offering as a Patty & Bun burger doestydf to a Maccy D.
D’s pressed suckling pig, prunes, black pudding and cauliflower purée is a plateful of joy. A perfect rectangle of pig and cake-like black pudding, of a softness and crumbliness which surprises me. D might have wanted to hold onto this but a deal is a deal and D is right proper. That whole sweet, salty, rich thing was going on with the crispy crackle skin, soft skeins of meat and sweet prunes dragged through the lush cauliflower purée and in case that wasn’t enough, there was rich Madeira gravy slopped over the top. Perfect.
Cauliflower, yeasted and smoky, also made an appearance with the seared sea trout, chanterelles, salsify and the almost-as-over-as-pine-nuts curly kale. I do believe that we have reached peak kale, as evidenced by the Daily Fail backlash, citing “experts” who warn it can cause bloating, thyroid and even heart problems. Poor kale. As if that wasn’t enough, the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow thinks you’re great surely means you’re done for.
Despite this, I very much enjoyed my kale and the perfectly cooked trout, pretty as a picture, served with purple florets of cauliflower and golden chanterelles. D’s crispy-coated roast veal sweetbreads with Romaine lettuce and pommes purée were the texture of chicken breasts and tasted not unlike. Unadvertised truffle appeared on the heavenly potato, complemented by braised mushrooms. I do like surprises. I also liked the crunch of the blanched Romaine lettuce. Sweetbreads. What might to some seem a challenging choice was simply the best sort of comfort food.
I’d missed out on the Tarte Tatin previously, spying it as I was leaving. I learn from my mistakes and fortunately my partner-in-food crime felt equally in need, so we didn’t hesitate. Pear Tarte Tatin (advertised as “to share”) is a thing of beauty and it must be ordered. I could lie and say that I couldn’t eat the whole thing, but you know better.
Home made chocolate truffles with coffee were entirely unnecessary but it would have been rude not to. I’d have eaten more, had they offered.
Judgement. A restaurant for those of us who wish to hear ourselves speak and who want to eat classically prepared food, with a nod to the mod in stylish surroundings. Dare I say, a restaurant for adults, some of whom do not yearn for the pickled, the foraged or the powdered. Mr P is your saviour, ye seeker of classical cookery, sending out from his open kitchen platefuls of well-prepared food with enough interest and technique-smarts to keep even your hard-to-please foodie happy and that’s no mean feat. We have a new man in Newman Street and his name is Pickett. Or Piquet. Take your pick.