17 May 2017

At Pique-Nique, Bermondsey, a Chicken Coup

I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Pique-Nique, a restaurant specialising in rotisserie chicken from Bresse in Eastern France, for almost a year. The sister restaurant of the excellent Casse-Croûte on Bermondsey Street, Pique-Nique is located just around the corner in the historic, mock-Tudor shelter in Tanner Street Park. I signed up to their mailing list some time ago, but a little thing I like to call the day job prevented me from securing a table during their sold-out soft launch over the weekend. Luckily, my brother and his wife scored a table for the three of us on Monday night with a 50% discount on food.

As we walked to the restaurant, the heavens opened but we didn't mind much because the park offers excellent dog-spotting opportunities. The restaurant itself is small, elegant and very much in keeping with the original design. It's just as lovely inside with about 30 or 40 covers spread across small, marble-topped tables, bar stools and a larger, farmhouse-style table, which would be great for groups. The interiors are gorgeous, and the space is bright and beautifully designed.

Like at Casse-Croûte, the menu is brief, with three starters (all at £8.50 or £9.50) and three mains (£18.50–£22.50) on offer. The entrecôte sounded great, but where was the celebrated chicken? We then realised we had skimmed over the Menu Autour du Poulet de Bresse (£38), which directed us to the board above the bar for further details. Our waitress explained what this entailed, but I'll admit that I wasn't paying as much attention as I perhaps should have done. The take-homes were that there were five chicken courses followed by a pudding. This seemed a tad indulgent for a Monday night but we decided to go for it (and with the special menu, everyone in the party has to opt in, presumably to prevent the non-poulet-consumers feeling too hard-done-by).

The drinks menu focused on wine, of course, and my brother and sister-in-law enjoyed a couple of different well-priced reds, but I went for a Jinzu G&T (£8), which was lovely and citrusy.

Then the food began to arrive. Courses one and two were, thankfully, small: chicken liver pâté, served with freshly baked bread, and a chicken croquette with onion jam. I've never liked pâté, but I figured that this was the perfect time to try it. Although I could have done with some more bread — we shared one small baguette between the three of us — it was creamy, rich and delicious. The croquette — bone-in — was also very tasty.

The next course was more challenging for me, my decade of vegetarianism coming back to haunt me. A consommé with asparagus came served with a skewer of offal: the comb, gizzard, heart and sweetbreads. The comb wasn't really my thing, but the others were incredibly flavoursome, even if I did have to work up the courage to try them.

Next up was the chicken breast served with the creamiest, most gorgeous mashed potato I've ever had (it usually comes with morel mushrooms, but they catered to my mushroom misgivings and served mine sans morille), followed by chicken thighs with a green salad. I thought the breast and thighs were both excellent, although my brother was a little less impressed with the thighs, which weren't quite so juicy and tender.

None of us had room for a pudding but it was hard to resist the call of the chocolate moelleux, which my sister and I both had, and which was incredibly rich, oozed with molten chocolate and came served with hazelnut ice cream. My brother's blueberry soufflé also got the thumbs up.

Even without a soft-launch discount, the autour du poulet menu is good value, given the quality of the food and the experience. We felt that it was a bit of a shame there wasn't a simple roast-chicken-and-mash option on the menu — because some nights require comfort food rather than six-course meals — but I'd like to go back to try the steak and the breakfast menu. And I'm sure this won't be my last adventure all around the chicken in six courses, either, especially as the park is only ten minutes' walk from my home.

Pique-Nique. Tanner Street Park, London, SE1 3LD (Tube: London Bridge). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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