It’s no secret that I love French cuisine, so naturally Piquet in Fitzrovia was on my food radar. Chef Patron Allan Pickett, whose surname has been nicely Gallicized for his first solo venture, has devised a menu inspired by traditional French and British cooking techniques, and is best illustrated by the snail pithivier starter, which was the main draw for me.
Ambiance and decor
The elegant exterior is sadly dwarfed by the ugly neighbouring construction sites. Moody sophistication continues through the ground-level bar, which is all dark wood panels and metal railing. The basement restaurant, however, is a brighter space where the wood panelling sharply contrasts with the shiny white tabletops. Our table was opposite the open kitchen, so Chef Savla and I felt like we were watching a live episode of MasterChef; I do love dinner with a dash of drama.
The waitresses were very eager to take our order, but this may be because we were among the first diners; it subsided as the restaurant filled up. Service was good throughout, the only blip being the appearance of a second beer which we hadn’t ordered and so sent back. When we mentioned it had been included on the bill, it was promptly removed, along with the wine by way of apology.
Food and drink
As we enjoyed our beer and glass of red (St Emilion), we nibbled on breadsticks and anchovy dip; delicately flavoured and a good indicator of what was to come.
The pithivier of Littlebourne snails came highly recommended, so did it live up to the hype? A resounding yes from both sides of the table: the pastry was beautifully flaky, the snails juicy, the lardons and herb filling a delicious surprise and the Madeira jus adding a touch of richness. The crab raviolo and samphire in shellfish dressing was a much more subtle affair, albeit equally impressive.
We stuck with fish for mains, and since it was a cold evening, the casserole of monkfish cheeks and baby squid sounded comfortingly warming. Although I was initially underwhelmed, this dish quietly works its magic on you, so I was well and truly converted by the end. The monkfish was accompanied by chorizo, haricot beans and herb oil, creating many different layers of flavours and textures. One minor quibble: the squid batter wasn’t as crisp as it could’ve been.
The simplest dishes can sometimes be the hardest to execute, and the pot roast seabass with sauté baby gem, cauliflower purée and pieds de mouton mushroom was a triumph: visually appealing, crispy skin on the well-cooked fish and plenty of bite in the vegetables.
I’m not one to turn down dessert, especially one of French origin, but the casserole defeated me. The waitress later told us that most people struggle to finish it as it’s so heavy, so I was proud of my culinary achievement. Anyway, skipping the last course gives me a reason to return.
If you want French food without the cream-laden sauces, Piquet is the place for you. Each dish had a unique twist and demonstrated a high level of skill, with our standout favourites being the pithivier and casserole. The informal yet slick decor lends itself well to all occasions: business meetings, lunch with friends or a romantic dinner. There are also several menus on offer, including a daily 2-course menu du jour for £16.50, which is exceptionally good value for money.
Budget: £35 pp, including service.