Within the luxurious surroundings of the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, as well as having a prime location within the City, steps from Tower Bridge, La Dame de Pic is the first UK restaurant from chef Anne-Sophie Pic. Pic, the heiress of the upscale hotel Maison Pic in Valence, France, where the restaurant carries three Michelin stars, has had an unusual journey to culinary stardom, drawing more on her heritage and intuition than any traditional training as a chef. As just the fourth female chef to achieve three stars, Pic has branched out across Western Europe and has already gained a star for the London restaurant La Dame de Pic within eighteen months of opening.
As well as the cuisine, Pic imported French architect Bruno Moinard to design the dining room. With several banquettes, mirrored columns and an intriguing use of lighting, the restaurant has a touch of the bistro about it, while hinting at something more elegant and stylish. Enjoying a cocktail at the tiny bar is a must; engage the extremely knowledgeable bar staff in conversation about your favourite tipple or just enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail while gazing at the astonishing variety of bottles on display.
When we were shown to our seat, it was a central booth that had the benefit of a strong sense of privacy. High backed benches and a looking cut-out lightshade – no doubt a nod to Pic’s time in Japan – made it feel cosy and enclosed, perfect for romantic dining or illicit gossiping. The amuse-bouches consisted of cute tartlets with tomato water foam and an unusually sweet bonbon of strawberry that burst in the mouth. The ambiance was gently buzzy, with clientele that seemed to mostly have come from City jobs as well as the odd celebratory group.
Charlotte began her meal with the signature Scottish langoustine, served with celery, apple and a lemon and dill emulsion. This dish was silky with shellfish butter, the langoustine tail succulent and the pairing with an aromatic and fresh Ovum Gewürtztraminer ‘Since I Fell For You’ 2016 was excellent. I opted for the berlingots, a type of pasta parcel filled with lightly smoked Brillat Savarin and an unusually spiced sauce with cardamom and galangal. The flavour had a distinct south-east Asian tinge, which was unexpected and innovative, while crunchy courgette provided a textural contrast to the bursting parcels of melted cheese. Alongside this, I was served a C de Marin 2016 Dominique Lucas, which had a lightness and clean minerality that cut through the more powerful flavours of the dish.
The main course was served with wines from the United States, definitely not something I have often seen in a French restaurant! The Brittany pigeon dish selected by Charlotte provided the best explosion of flavour when all elements were consumed together; tangy autumnal garnishes cut through the very rare pigeon meat, while the hint of Nikka whisky added warmth. The wine, a Gramercy Cellars Syrah 2013 had a deep colour and brought out the richness of the ingredients in the dish. My wine was a Giant Steps Pinot Noir 2016, a single vineyard wine from Applejack Vineyards in the Yarra Valley. It was light and fruity, just like the Coltrane jazz classic of the same name! In any case, it was a good match for my large and crispy-edged veal sweetbread, which had been poached in gruyere and pepper before roasting. It was served with potato Grenailles, blobs of divinely earthy black garlic puree and a crisp of grapefruit. It was a deceptively substantial course, for both of us, given the generosity of the protein element, but we were not to be dissuaded from the cheese course…
La Dame de Pic serves as its signature cheese a ramekin of brie de meaux foam with Tahitian vanilla. This is a very addictive flavour; we know how well a strong cheese goes with honey, but the textural creaminess of the cheese and the aromatic creaminess of the vanilla created some sort of smooth heavenly fusion. We proceeded towards the dessert with anticipation, since there was clearly some magic at work in the sweet section of the kitchen. My dessert was the ‘Pic Chocolate’, created with a chocolate made exclusively for Anne-Sophie Pic. The dark chocolate shard was surrounded by chocolate mousse, balls of cinnamon leaf ice cream and lemon bonbons that exploded in the mouth to unleash Meyer lemon confit. This was another unusual and creative combination of flavours – it wasn’t too sweet, but I did feel that the confit was a bit strong for the other flavours when a bonbon popped and flooded your mouth! Charlotte’s dessert was the architecturally stunning ‘While Millefeuille’, the pastry of which was layered with jasmine jelly, then covered with Tahitian vanilla cream to form a perfect white cube. It was served with Voatsiperifery pepper foam, further drawing on south-east Asian flavours to enhance French classics.
Our dinner ended with a presentation of a ‘red velvet’ cake to celebrate Charlotte’s recent birthday. We gallantly made an attempt to try it, after we had already eaten our fill, and were surprised to find a white sponge with berry jam, rather than the cream cheese frosted chocolate cake that this name might suggest. Typical of this restaurant, nothing is quite as it seems. There are hints of Pic’s time in Asia that creep into every course and her unconventional route to culinary success seems to have given her the ability to flout the rules and be adventurous, but she doesn’t stray too far from the path. The unusual spices that have been incorporated through some very classic French cuisine make this dining experience unique and interesting. If you’re hungry in the City, La Dame de Pic is an excellent place to challenge your own flavour expectations, while still being confident that the very best seasonal British ingredients are being manipulated to create something new. Be a little adventurous and try it.