La Dame de Pic
Four Seasons Hotel,
10 Trinity Square,
London, EC3N 4AJ
Tel. 020 3297 9200
Food type: Modern French
Nearest tube: Tower Hill
Website: La Dame de Pic
When a foreign chef opens up an outpost in London, I often greet it with a lot of scepticism. There have been many lazy efforts where chef think they can hoodwink the English diners by offering a half-baked interpretation of their flagship. Just off the top of my head are Tokimeite and Eneko at One Aldwych, both restaurants associated with chefs who hold 3*s in their country. So, when it was announced that Anne-Sophie Pic would be opening an outpost at the new Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square, I greeted that news with general apathy. That was until I started to see some of the dishes on Instagram and Twitter – they actually looked half decent. So we decided to give it a go and head to La Dame de Pic, shortly after they opened. In fact, the hotel was so new, that the taxi driver did not even know where it was.
The first thing to note with the a la carte menu is that the items are quite fully priced. This is the Four Seasons after all and a newly minted one at that. Items are individually priced with starters £19 to £32, Fish & Meats £32 to £42 (there is Sea Bass on the menu at £56 but that features caviar) and desserts £14. On average, you will be spending £75-80 for a 3 course meal at dinner which is on par with most 1 Michelin star restaurants in Central London. The tasting menu is £105 and the concessions lunch menu (from Monday to Friday) is £39 for 3 courses. The best bet is actually the weekend lunch menu at £55 for 4 courses – this is a set menu which consists of dishes from the main menu, so it is a good way to try out the kitchens repertoire without breaking the bank. As we visited for dinner, we went the 3 course a la carte route, splitting an intermediate fish course.
While we were browsing the menu, a couple of snacks were brought to us. The initial pumpkin consommé was actually served to us very soon after we sat down. Infused with geranium, the consommé had nice depth of flavour and was refreshing to the palate. A couple more nibbles followed once we were presented with the menu – pastisse bon bon, crispy jerusalem artichoke leaf and a curry marshmallow. The curry marshmallow in particular was particularly good with a nice soft, fluffy texture and a hint of the curry flower. Bread is a white sourdough which is inexplicably served with coffee infused butter. I’m sure infusing coffee with butter must serve a higher purpose for some, but for me, it just tasted like someone had spilt their expresso on my bread.
Finally, the last nibble was a cauliflower espuma with croutons and grated mimolette cheese. The espuma had good cauliflower flavour – creamy, nutty with contrasting sweet, salty, bitter and umami notes.
My starter was the langoustine with heirloom carrots and a carrot and langoustine bouillon which had been infused with geranium and pine. Three medium sized Scotch langoustines have been cooked on the plancha accompanied by textures of carrots. The langoustines had been accurately cooked and popped in the mouth. I really like the bouillon of carrots which had been infused with coffee to give it a good depth of flavour. The addition of geranium and pine buds to the bouillon brought a floral perfume and lightness which lifted the dish. This dish really encapsulates Anne-Sophie Pic’s cooking style – classical French techniques but delivering light, fresh dishes.
We then split a mackerel dish between us. The mackerel had been glazed with xerez vinegar and cooked on a teppanyaki (or plancha, does it really make a difference what they call it?). The cuisson of the fish was faultless with moist flesh and the crisp skin. I wonder if the mackerel had been cured before cooking. Saying that, I still think Brett’s flame grilled mackerel at the Ledbury still remains the benchmark for what I would consider the best mackerel cooking. Paired with the fish was a dashi broth infused with green tea which was clean tasting with a nice umami note to it. A side dish consisted of a potato and cured mackerel salad which I really enjoyed – the cured mackerel had good flavour with the pickled shallot rings cutting through its richness.
For me, the mains was a no brainer – Venison and Foie gras pthivier was the only main that jumped out at me when I looked at the menu. I love pthiviers although the ones we get in England are rather pedestrian. The version here was very, very good. I dare say, probably the best I have eaten in England. We have venison loin and foie gras encased with slow cooked venison and cabbage and encased in lovely puff pastry. By sealing the pthivier filling with cabbage leaves, it allowed the pastry to cook nicely without going soggy. The venison jus was again light, spiked with rum and red kampot (Cambodian) pepper. On the side, a very sensible fresh salad garnished with walnuts and truffle to refresh the palate.
We skipped cheese and made a beeline for the white millefeuille which is arguably a rather simple pudding, but extremely tasty. Instead of classic crème pâtissière, the layers of puff pastry is lined with jasmine jelly and vanilla cream. The entire millefeuille is then surrounded by more vanilla cream, hence the white millefeuille name. By eschewing the crème pâtissière, the final result is a millefeuille which is lighter than the norm. The jasmine jelly again added freshness to balance the richness of the cream. On the side, a foam made from Voatsiperifery Pepper which had aromatic, perfume, almost vanilla note to it. I loved this millefeuille, its lightness was a sensible conclusion to the meal, particularly after a substantial main course. To be honest though, it was on the small side and I could have happily eaten another one.
There is certainly plenty to like about La Dame de Pic. Anne-Sophie’s style of cooking is very unique, marrying classical French techniques with an eclectic mix of flavours. The balance in each dish is very good, with no one ingredient overpowering. This in itself is a skill and shows the mastery of the kitchen especially given that some of the ingredients they are working with can be quite domineering. The flavours are very clean and the overall style of cooking is relatively light meaning you will end the meal feeling full but not bloated.
Although the price point may be a point of discussion for some, the quality of ingredients used here speak for themselves. Sure you are paying £36 for a main course, but you get the excellent Challans chicken as opposed to the cheaper Label Anglaise chicken favoured by many restaurants in the UK. To be honest, I’m happy to pay for the high quality ingredients rather than some of the cheap, grim stuff that is floating around in our casual, sharing plates dining scene. For me, the cooking here is easily at a 1* level and we will have to see if the bib agrees come September time. From there, the question is then on what level of ambition of the kitchen have – there is ample of opportunity and talent here to push on for a second.