Allan Pickett, co-owner, Piquet Restaurant

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th August 2016

Allan Pickett co-owns Piquet Restaurant with restauranteur, Andre Blais which opened last year and situated in the heart of London's Fitzrovia. Piquet combines classic French techniques with the best of the great British larder.

When we spoke to Allan we found out why he decided to join forces with Andre for his new restaurant venture, what inspires his dish creations, and why Piquet customers love how he goes about sourcing seasonal produce ensuring menus are regularly changing.  

Pear Tatin
Pear Tatin

You co-own the restaurant with Andre Blais, does he have much involvement in menu creation?

Yes and no really, Andre is more involved in an indirect way, he doesn’t tell me what to put on the menu but he likes to push the boundaries and he gets me to think about how simple great food can be. For example, a piece of grilled fish with a well made sauce and a side of Jersey Royals is all that’s needed sometimes. Andre eats at Piquet and likes to give me his honest feedback as a paying customer and if we ever want to evolve I think this is necessary. Sometimes as a chef you are so focused on getting the food on the plate the way you want it, that we can’t always see the bigger picture. I now eat at Piquet once a month to see what it’s like from the other side of the pass. It’s a real eye opener for me and there is always something to tweak.

How did the partnership come about?

Andre is constantly evolving his offer at Bodeans and looking at ways of getting the most flavour out of his beef. I was working with a Josper oven when I was first introduced to Andre. He was brought to my previous place of work to find out how the oven worked. From that lunch I was in awe of him and who he is as a restauranteur and we just seemed to click, he’s now my business partner and mentor.    

Where does your inspiration for dish creation come from?

It has to be the seasons and what’s coming from our suppliers, I like to keep it simple but serving consistently good food is what we are all about at Piquet.

How often do you change your menus, we'd assume your menu du jour changes daily?

One dish on our menu du jour changes daily to keep our regular customers interested and coming back for more. The a la carte menu will change through the seasons but it’s very much dependent on what we can serve consistently for a period of time. We now have our classics that will never leave the menu which are things like the sweetbreads and tatin of pears, but that’s because they are so popular with the customers.

How much do you rely on seasonal produce?

Snail Pithivier (credit Claire Menary)
Snail Pithivier (credit Claire Menary) 

Its 90% of what we do to be honest. I love the later part of the year when there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables and we get to use them in so many ways.

What is your favourite season for produce and why?

That would have to be late summer quickly followed by autumn because there’s a serious amount of fruit around that we can preserve for our house cocktails and fruit tarts that we can make daily.

Being born and raised in Kent you obviously want to showcase your background on the menu, do you use a lot of local suppliers in and around the area to achieve this?

I try to, there are some months where we can take a lot and other months where we use very little simply because there is nothing to use. We always use Littlebourne snails throughout the year and Kent selection charcuterie which is great.

Your mum supplies foraged ingredients from her allotment, with foraging becoming so mainstream how do you stop this being just a gimmick at Piquet?

It allows me to have a stronger link with my mother and to find out what she has been growing for her own use but to also see what she has foraged for us. When I can tell my customer that my mother has hand-picked the blackberries the day before from a leafy lane in lower Rainham in Kent, it reassures our customers we know where our produce comes from and the back story behind why we use it. 

Info bar

Favourite ingredients

Sliced scallops with our piquet marinade is a perfect way to start a meal.

Lightly poached strawberries served with the lightest set vanilla cream.

Signature dishes

Littlebourne snail Pithivier, Madeira jus

Roast sweetbreads, romaine lettuce, ceps

Pear and red wine tatin, cinnamon ice cream

How would you describe your food style?

Franglais (combining the cultural influences of French and English cuisines) is a word I’ve heard used before which I think really sums up what I am trying to achieve at Piquet’s. I try to use the best (local as possible) produce to allow its flavour to shine through without having to add in another 10 ingredients to help it along the way. I like the classics and think they can be done very well with a modern approach.

What is your favourite dish at Piquet past or present and why?

It has to be our Snail Pithivier which is the simplest dish to look at but the hardest to get right. There are a lot of components and that’s what sets it apart.

Looking on your website it says you like to use classic techniques, what are these and why do you favour them over more modern techniques?

We still confit, braise, stew and compote here at Piquet and I don’t really use things like dry ice and I only use Lecithin in one dish for a reason. I like to cook and serve food that people understand, with the hope that they want to come back for again and again. I’d like to think we are a more relaxed Bistro than fine dining restaurant and I want us to be at the heart of this amazing neighbourhood.   

How do the techniques a chef chooses to use effect the overall flavour and texture of the food?

Cod cheeks, chorizo casserole (credit Claire Menary)

Cod cheeks,

chorizo casserole (credit Claire Menary)

There are so many ways of imparting flavours and getting the best flavours from the food, I think we use all of these in different ways. Like the best chefs around, we also use brines, herb salts, rubs, marinades and many other ways of getting the best out of the produce we use.   

Who inspires you as a chef?

Sat Bains, Brett Graham, Robin Gill, Simon Hulstone, The Galvin brothers and the list goes on. They all inspire me in different ways. It’s only by talking to them that you can glean knowledge in what they do to be the best.  

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th August 2016

Allan Pickett, co-owner, Piquet Restaurant