Fiona Beckett gives her verdict on Pique-Nique...
Originally published in Decanter magazine in partnership with Hine Cognac
Tanner Street Park, London SE1 3LD
Tel: +44 (0)20 7403 9549
- Rating: 8/10
- Open all day from Monday-Saturday and 10-5pm on Sunday
- Restaurant style: French
- Set menu £38
- à la carte menu available
- Wine to try: Arbois Chardonnay
‘Go into the park and after the tennis courts turn right at the children’s playground. There’s a funny old building in the corner – that’s it. Don’t follow Google maps.’
Not the most reassuring set of instructions when you’re heading for a restaurant you’re trying for the first time. The timbered dining room – a cross between an old Berni Inn and a Normandy auberge – isn’t the coolest either, except in a self-consciously retro way. But I hadn’t come for the decor, I’d come for the chicken.
Pique-Nique is an offshoot of the equally quirky Casse-Croûte, which is just round the corner in Bermondsey Street, London SE1 (about 10 minutes walk from the Shard, in case you think I’m dragging you into the wilds of nowhere). The menu is short and centred round poulet de Bresse. One of us felt obliged to order the full chicken menu, but not before piling into a vol-au-vent of splendid extravagance overflowing with mushrooms and chicken boudin.
The £38 menu featured a pâté, croquette, consommé and two main dishes: the breast anointed with a creamy sauce with morilles and some outrageously good buttery mash; the thighs simply roasted with a salad. Compared to the absurd generosity of everything else we sampled, there wasn’t a great deal of prime meat – I’d be tempted on another occasion to order a quarter chicken and a side of what looked like exemplary straw potatoes. An alternative main of cod with clams, coco beans and chorizo was beautifully cooked. We envied our neighbours’ steak too. Only an artichoke with an overprocessed ravigote sauce failed to impress.
The wine list is also brief but interesting, with extra bottles on offer from the board. Resisting the Côte-Rôtie, we went for an Arbois Chardonnay, the Domaine de la Tournelle, Les Corvées sous Curon 2012 at £59, which went perfectly with all the different chicken courses. ‘Have the St-Péray next time,’ said the owner with the well placed confidence that we would return.
Desserts, for which we had no room, were surprisingly sophisticated too. A marvellous airy raspberry soufflé presented with due ceremony, with a perfect lozenge of raspberry ice cream popped inside, was pure old-school. Our bill unsurprisingly came to £163.68, but we did push the boat out.
‘This is exactly the sort of place that winemakers would love,’ I said to my friend. Chefs and sommeliers too, I could have added. There’s also a large table that would be perfect for birthday parties and other jolly get-togethers. Birthdays with vol-au-vents? I’m in!
Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restaurant reviewer.
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