La Dame de Pic at the Four Seasons Hotel in the City
“Ineffable” is one of the English language’s peculiar little mysteries, in essence a term to describe the indescribable, a word for when words fail. Few restaurants, few dishes, are truly ineffable. Exquisite, mouthwatering, mind-blowing, delicious, absurd, unusual: the old suspects come pouring out with consummate ease when it comes to food. No matter what we might think of a meal, there is usually something in our ramshackle tongue that captures it well enough.
Much of La Dame de Pic, the latest restaurant from the much-acclaimed Anne-Sophie Pic, is easily described. Everything and everyone here is unerringly precise, fastidious and honed to a razor-fine point; it’s the type of place where you imagine the maitre’d patiently irons and starches his socks before every service. If you know the fine-dining scene, you’ll undoubtedly have a picture in your mind already. We could elaborate further on the impeccable manners of the staff, the elegance of the room, the incredible reputation Pic has built herself in France, but the food? A much more challenging proposition.
Take one main course: Brixham Dover Sole, Braised Endives, Green Apple, Celery and Green Anise Émulsion. With so many elements, so many interesting flavours, it should practically write itself but, somehow, it just doesn’t. Clean is the word that jumps to mind, and one that will keep coming back throughout the meal, but it isn’t right. Freshly painted walls are clean, the crisp white linen on each table is clean, this is… something else.
Hereford Beef with Coffee and Cinnamon Leaves, Celeriac in Brown Butter and Sobacha should be easier: so many bold and powerful flavours. The solid slug of celeriac trading blows with the robust coffee, the richness of the brown butter and the perfect cooking of the beef, but it’s all too reserved. The Brittany Pigeon, on the other hand, reads well, eats well, and is frankly cooked with such technical excellence that an average service here might as well be compulsory study for any young chef chasing a star.
Trying to grasp these dishes precisely is like trying to catch the air in your hand and place it in your pocket. It is an evasive meal, and at times it can and will leave you feeling a little bemused, as if the dish has lightly skimmed the top of your tongue, tantalised your imagination but not fully delivered. Cornish Crab, with Sobacha and Dill Panna Cotta, Corsican Clementine and Mikan Jelly and Crunchy Celeriac, for example, is damn near technically perfect but simply doesn’t elicit the elation it should.
The same goes for the White Millefeuille, which is again pretty as a picture, technically precise but ultimately perhaps just too safe? Or the extensive – predominantly French – wine list, and its tasting menu pairings, both of which won’t leave you disappointed, but hardly excite either.
That realisation of this joyous potential isn’t eternally ethereal though. Berlingots, Pasta Parcels with Lightly Smoked Pélardon Cheese, Seasonal Wild Mushrooms, Tonka Bean and Voatsiperifery Pepper, are that word ineffable in all its best senses, an almost-religious experience encompassing paper-thin pasta, a beautifully rich hit of cheese and such a mind-meltingly good blast of umami from those mushrooms you’ll wonder if they forgot to add the word “magic” to the menu. The slight smoke of the cheese perfectly accentuates the meatier qualities of the mushrooms, adding a bit of heft and power to an otherwise delicate pasta. It’s one of the best things we’ve eaten all year and one of those dishes that will make all the lists of unmissable taste experiences in the capital.
Rendering a verdict on La Dame de Pic is actually surprisingly easier than trying to describe just how you got to that conclusion. It’s an impeccable experience, with great food that at times rises to the sublime. We’d say tell your friends about it, but, well… what would you say?
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
To book a table at La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square, 10 Trinity Square, London EC3N 4AJ, call 020 3297 9200 or visit here.