British chef Allan Pickett discusses his new Anglo-French restaurant Piquet, which opens following a summer-long residency at London’s Sanderson Hotel
The finishing touches are currently being made to a brand new restaurant in Fitzrovia, by the very chef that will oversee the menu: Allan Pickett. The location, the interior and even the crockery of Pickett’s new eatery, Piquet, were carefully chosen by him to reflect the menu’s ethos – classic French food with a British approach to modern dining, and an emphasis on fresh British produce. The restaurant’s name cutely encapsulates this approach too… Piquet is a play on Pickett’s surname that acknowledges his central role in the venture, but simultaneously references the simple French cuisine that Allan is so passionate about.
“I love the confits and rillettes that take a long time to produce,” says Pickett enthusiastically, when I speak to him ahead of the restaurant’s launch. “A lovely pot of rillettes with some sourdough toast and homemade cornichons and pickled onions – that’s it for me, I’m in heaven.”
In addition to being instrumental in the restaurant’s design – right down to the re-varnished and re-upholstered reclaimed chairs inside – Pickett will be overseeing the day-to-day running of the cookery. “Some of the guys in the kitchen have never seen a whole lamb, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to really showcase British produce,” Pickett explains. “We can even break it down in front of customers if they want to see some butchery.” Such is the commitment to fresh produce that he plans to cook fish that has been caught earlier that day.
Pickett developed a love for French cuisine when he trained with Albert Roux, whose restaurant Le Gavroche was the first in the UK to be awarded three Michelin stars. Since then, Pickett has been head chef of D&D London’s Plateau and Orrery in Canary Wharf, and in summer 2015 he took up residency at The Restaurant at Sanderson, near to Piquet’s location, where he served up dishes including poached cod cheeks and guinea fowl in roast chicken gravy.
The chef’s impressive career has not prepared him for the pressures of running a business, however; Pickett believes the project would not have been possible without his business partner, Andre Blais. “It was always a dream of mine to have my own restaurant, but it’s important to have someone who knows what they’re doing,” he explains. “Someone who can deal with the financial issues… That’s where a lot of chefs fall down.”
Pickett is committed to ensuring a certain level of honesty in his menu, which, if not a sign of business acumen, belies a keen sense of what consumers really want from a restaurant these days. “There’s so many great cookery programmes and you can buy great food from the supermarkets now,” he says. “If people are going out for a treat, then you have to be honest with what you’re charging.”
This uncomplicated approach, where the passion for food is central to everything, may well become the defining feature of Piquet. “All we’re looking to do at the restaurant is just cook proper food without any airs and graces,” Pickett says. “It’s the chance of a lifetime for a little chef like me.”
Piquet opens on 23 Sep 2015.