No nonsense French cooking in the heart of Southwark
Pique-Nique is an unapologetically French restaurant with simple, rustic dishes. There are no tweezers in the kitchen here and I liked the way the menu boards are placed in front of each table. All mains are to share and there is a very reasonable, supporting wine board as well. I enjoyed this meal very much and you certainly need to embrace the rather setting, being opposite tennis courts and a playground, but then again, this is exactly the sort of place that doesn’t need to depend on frills and location – it is what it is and those who know about well done French country food will know about it and simply continue to come. If you are in the mood for this, peruse no further and enjoy a slice of regional France in this London capsule.
I did like the way the menu boards were shown to us I must say. Starters varied from £7.50-£10.50 including paté en croute and white asparagus with myself opting for gnocchi with wild garlic and spinach. This had a pleasant sweetness to it and to my surprise, subdued garlic which was a relief as my thought was it would linger in the mouth for the rest of the day. Thankfully, the chef judged this well. Bread was from a simple baguette as one would expect, but this is the one part of the meal that was a little disappointing. I understand this is how it is done and how it should be, but I can’t help think with such an array of wonderful breads out there with superb variants of butter (this was somewhat flat), that this was the one area that the house could up its game from this tough/stretchy bread, as authentic as it, particularly when the final bill for a small(ish) lunch was over £100.
Anyway, this is a minor point. The main point is that the chicken from Laundes (SW France) was heavenly. The corn-fed chicken was the cheapest main at £42 (which was probably one of the reasons every single table I could see had ordered it) and was thankfully a joy. The sauce from herbs and meat juices was simple and divine, the chicken itself utterly succulent and with lovely, cripsy skin and the supporting, squidgy new potatoes to decorate the rest of the dish were the perfect vehicles to mop up all sauce. As chicken goes this was beautiful and a small amount of relief from all the oil and juices came from a simple offering of salad with vinegarette which was just the thing needed. Other mains on the menu included veal T-bone and saddle of lamb, both £58 to share for two and one of those will be attacked next time.
It was hard to resist the chocolate souffle and especially the tart tartan, but I did and opted for cheese. The three cheeses consisted of the blue vein, Fourme d’ambert, a particularly impressive goat cheese (Pont d’yeux) and a cow-based Tomme aux 7 fleurs. The latter, decorated with 7 kinds of flowers on the ends, had these from mallow, marigold, blueberry, safflowers, rose blossoms, strawberry leaves and trigonella. It would be a stretch for me to say I could identify each of these on the palate (as I absolutely could not), but they did give a pleasant herbal taste to the already delicious nuttiness of the cheese.
The wine was a reasonable carafe of Vin de Table (La Poetes) for £28 and the coffee was from the renowned Monmouth brand who have stores nearby in neighbouring Borough Market and Bermondsey (the original being in Covent Garden). The final bill came to £52 per head which, with a sizeable carafe of wine is a reasonable offering. The main going-away present is that for this, you are having no fuss, well-prepared and unpretentious food that is patently the sort of food that virtually everyone will want to eat.
Food Grade: 72%
Location (Click google logo for directions)