La Dame de Pic is in the Four Seasons Hotel just opposite the Tower of London. For more on the background and comments on the wine list please read my previous reviews. At dinner there are a range of tasting menus available, priced at £105, £130 and £175 respectively for the “Discovery”, “Journey” and ”Voyage” menus. We went for the lengthiest option this evening.
The meal began with a trio of canapes, served for some reason on a dish of little stone pebbles. Tacos contained carrots, bottarga and nasturtium leaves, and had pleasing texture. A little mushroom tart was infused with ginger, geranium and grated hazelnut and was my favourite of the canapes, while there was also a little sphere of gin bonbon and blackcurrant kombucha that released its liquid centre on the tongue as you bit into it (16/20 canapes). This was followed by a further amuse-bouche of beetroot and taramasalata, pine buds and green Chartreuse liqueur. This was quite an unusual combination of flavours but worked quite well, the earthy beetroot lifted by the pepper, minty flavour of the Chartreuse (16/20).
Cornish crab was seasoned with sobacha (buckwheat tea), topped with a waffle and served with lovage and combawa (kaffir lime) leaf ice cream. The crab itself had plenty of natural sweetness, the waffle was delicate and brought a contrasting texture, and the savoury ice cream worked rather better than I expected with the crab (16/20). Berlingots were little pasta parcels filled with Baron Bigod cheese from Suffolk, a milk cheese that resembles Brie de Meaux, watercress and smoked pine oil. The original version at Pic uses Banon goat cheese, but otherwise the preparation here is much the same. The little pasta parcels had delicate texture and rest in a watercress sauce that was flavoured with pine oil. I prefer the version in Valence but I think that the English cheese used here works quite well (17/20).
Artichokes “petit violet” came with genmaicha (brown rice tea), mezcal (an agave-based liqueur), peanut praline, mint and a very mild Madras curry sabayon. The artichokes had good flavour and the spices were very subtle, actually a bit too subtle to my taste – a touch more spice would have enlivened the earthy flavour of the artichokes, who have a strong enough flavour to easily cope with some mild curry (16/20). Scottish scallops meuniere came with mushroom dashi, sumac, Meyer lemon and kale. The diver-caught scallop had excellent natural sweetness and was lightly cooked, the meuniere sauce being browned butter flavoured with lemon. The sumac brought a tangy citrus freshness, with the kale providing some balance to the sweetness of the scallop (16/20).
Wild sea bass was topped with caviar a dish invented at Pic in 1971 by Jacques Pic, Anne-Sophie Pic’s father. The fillet of sea bass is topped with a generous line of caviar and rests in a fluffed up sauce of crem, fennel, shallots, fish stock and champagne. This was a very enjoyable dish, the brininess of the caviar enlivening the fish, the champagne sauce adding a further luxurious element (17/20). Veal sweetbread was served with caraway, butternut squash, hazelnuts and Amaretto Disaronno liqueur from Lombardy. This was the dish of the meal for me, the sweetbread having light, airy texture and delicate flavour, its natural richness nicely balance by the squash and the nuts (18/20).
As this was a long "Voyage" menu there was no cheese board offered, but there was a token cheese in the form of Saint Marcellin with fig chutney, the former being in good condition. White millefeuille is a striking visual dish that is on the menu at Pic in Valence. The main element is a white cube containing layers of thin puff pastry interleaved with jasmine jelly and Tahitian vanilla cream. An extra flavour dimension comes from a ”pepper cloud” made using Madagascar pepper. The white cube is made from layers of royal icing made from egg whites and confectioner’s sugar laid out over acetate and then separated into thin squares with a microplane grater. The overall effect is quite floral due to the jasmine, with the gentle spice of the pepper controlled carefully. It is a very clever dish technically, though for me the pastry section here actually has even more enjoyable creations to offer, as can be seen from reading my previous reviews (16/20).
Coffee was the top of the range Panama Gesha from Difference Coffee. This came with a pair of petit fours: chocolate with mango and turmeric and a coffee, vanilla, tonka bean and wild voatsiperifery pepper from Madagascar. Service was very classy, and it was nice to see Anne-Sophie Pic herself in evidence today. She has quite a restaurant empire these days but today was visiting her London outpost. I was being treated to this meal by a friend so I did not see the bill, but if you opted for the shortest menu and shared a bottle of modest wine a typical cost per person would be around £160. La Dame de Pic is a reliable restaurant serving quite inventive modern French food with a high degree of technical skill. Some of the flavour taste combinations are perhaps overly inventive at times, but dishes such as the sweetbread illustrate that the kitchen can produce some really lovely flavours.