Anne-Sophie Pic is best known for getting the golden snitch of culinary accolades, the big three Michelin stars for her Valence restaurant Maison Pic, two at Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, and another one at her more casual La Dame de Pic in Paris. That’s a total of six Michelin stars, a rare feat for even the most acclaimed international chefs, rarer yet for a female one. Oh, and she was once named the world’s best female chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Lucky for us, then, that Anne-Sophie has finally arrived in London, and has made the grand dining room of the Four Seasons Hotel in London’s Ten Trinity Square home to her latest restaurant, La Dame de Pic. It could be intimidating – this is a looming piece of City architecture with dramatic Corinthium columns, and a domed ceiling and piano at its beating red-carpeted heart – but inside the restaurant proper, with an absence of tablecloths and staff schooled in proper old-school charm, you instantly feel welcome (even if the menu prices cause a gulp – starters go up to £26, mains £42).
High end prices aside, this is a menu that’s both surprising and playful, and includes plenty of little extras. A trio of off-menu ‘snacks’ delivers a Jerusalem artichoke transformed into an intricate edible leaf, with a dusting of finely grated liquorice and lime zest, nestled amongst a bowl of real leaves. Politely flavoured, savoury curried cashew marshmallows are presented in a ball-pit of pale blanched cashews. Yuzu pastis bonbons, served on a bed of ice, exploded in the mouth, aromatic, sharp and awakening.
Another, more substantial bowl of creamy cauliflower purée with a shower of grated mimolette (think French Edam with more welly) on top, came before our first starter. The menu is littered with flavours and ingredients you’ll have never heard of but the staff know their stuff, and guide you through with ease (same too with the glorious wines). Delicately picked white crabmeat is hidden beneath precise rounds of crunchy, raw celeriac, like little scales, and surrounded by a moat of dill panna cotta, a zingy clementine and mikan (another Chinese citrus) jelly.
There’s a lot of hide and seek, masquerade and mimicry – later a perfectly glazed, golden pithivier concealed a buttery layer of foie gras and ruddy venison with yet more mystical and magical platefellows, red kampot pepper, cocoa bean and Zacapa rum. Don’t be fooled though, if you’re expecting aggressive flavours – there’s a quiet restraint to the cooking here. Gentle and elegant.
A white millefeuille dessert (suggested with a knowing smirk by our lovely waiter) has quickly become Anne-Sophie’s signature and Instagram favourite. Served as a crisp white cube of aromatic Tahitian vanilla cream, inside is where you’ll find concealed the crisp pastry layers, fragrant jasmine jelly and a voatsiperifery pepper foam.
Other dishes are noteworthy, too, particularly the bread and butter – crusty, chewy, bouncy – with seemingly limitless rounds of Anne Sophie’s beurres infusés with aromatic curry spices, and perhaps more unusually, coffee. (It works, trust us.)
Sea bream (sliced, raw, in folds) was as pretty as a picture – marinated with Tasmanian pepper berry and meyer lemon with a (gorgeous) Amabuki sake ice cream and Petrossian caviar – a clever contrast in textures, temperatures and flavours. Scottish langoustine, seared in shellfish butter and glowing from its warm bath of bouillon and ribbons of heritage carrots, had added layers of flavour thanks to an infusion of pine tree and geranium.
When there’s such a fashion for big and bold flavours, and fizz, and volume across London restaurants it’s refreshing to see such elegant, delicate restrain and refinement. It’s impressive, it’s show off, it’s special occasion stuff. And with such attention to detail, it’s sure to add another decoration to Anne-Sophie’s already remarkable career. Welcome to London, madame!
La Dame de Pic,
Four Seasons Hotel,
London at Ten Trinity Square,
London EC3N 4AJ
Written March 2017