14-15 Trinity Street
Phone: 01 677 1060
Pichet describes itself as a modern take on the bistro. It certainly looks modern (very cool chairs, by the way) and the menu strays beyond France, but it strikes me as being a very good and very busy bistro in its truest sense, modern take or not.
Now that it has been revamped, it’s odd to realise that Pichet opened as recently as 2009. It is now so much part of Dublin that it feels like it has been there forever.
2009 was not an auspicious time to do anything in Ireland apart, possibly, from emigrating. So bold and so new was Pichet back then in the gloomy old days of austerity Ireland, that its arrival delivered a much needed kick up the arse to what was a pretty somnolent restaurant scene.
If I were to pinpoint when Dublin started to become an exciting city in which to eat, I’d say that Pichet very boldly got that ball rolling.
The new and I have to say improved version is still all about Stephen Gibson’s cooking but there’s a terrific new bar, a more sensible entrance, the colour scheme has become more subdued and confident and the windows now have obscured glass so that diners don’t feel as if they are on display to the foot passengers of St Andrew’s Lane.
Thankfully the faith of the founders has been more than justified. While Nick Munier has headed on to other endeavours elsewhere, the real talent remains in the shape of Stephen Gibson, formerly of L’Ecrivain but now well established as a brilliant chef in his own right, and a chef who embraces the challenge of doing things simply (which is never easy, although it may sometimes look that way).
I fell in love with the pea soup, with lemon oil, a little fleck of creamy ricotta and a tiny croqueta, tapas style, of Iberico ham, a symphony of flavours in which each one came across loud and clear.
And consider a rich, buttery, velvet parfait of foie gras with sherry jelly (something that needs to be a bigger part of my life), pickled walnut and – here’s the brilliant bit – immaculately crisp pieces of chicken skin. Wow!
Or halibut, a thick slice of this exceptionally meaty fish came with a delicate fennel bisque that brought out the natural piscine sweetness while the whole thing was balanced nicely by a tart but earthy, green tasting herb vinaigrette.
The confidence of Stephen Gibson’s cooking is best underlined by a dish which reminded me that you can’t put into words the actual experience of shoveling it into one’s mouth. Suffice it to say that it involved a very refined southern-fried approach to guinea fowl.
My dining companion on my first visit described the character of Pichet very succinctly. "There's no fuss," he said. And that’s a very important part of the Pichet formula. It goes with the friendly, cheerful but supremely professional service and with what comes, mercifully not mucked about, on the plate.
De-fussing a restaurant is not easy. It's not a question of eschewing heel-clicking formality, there's also the need to avoid forced jollity, upselling, ceremony. You need to be very sure of what you're doing to pull this off. Pichet does that with the greatest of ease.
Pichet describes itself as a modern take on the bistro, which is, perhaps, unduly modest. It certainly looks modern (very cool chairs, by the way), the restaurant itself is busy and buzzy, the menu strays well beyond France, but it’s real value for me, at any rate it is as an alternative to “fayne daining”; it has the same attention to detail, the same painstaking skill in the kitchen, but without all the palaver.
So, anyway, great food, no fuss. That’s what Pichet is all about. (And rather splendid cocktails, I should add, at that very cool bar).