The Woman Atop French Food Prepares to Take On London
One of the world's leading chefs will open her first restaurant in London next month, bringing modern French food to the City financial district.
La Dame de Pic at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square will open Jan. 26, featuring the cuisine of Anne-Sophie Pic. She is the only woman to hold three Michelin stars at a restaurant in France: Anne-Sophie Pic, in Valence. She has two more stars for Anne-Sophie Pic, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and a sixth for La Dame de Pic in Paris.
"London is a very competitive city for restaurants, so don't give me too much pressure," Pic said and laughed during an interview in London. Her accolades include being named Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef. "I really want to do well in London because I want people to experience my cuisine, and, obviously, to like it."
Pic said she had been traveling to the U.K. for months to learn the food scene and find local ingredients, so it does more than just echo her cooking in France. "It's an opportunity for me to enhance my food culture," she said. "We are ready."
The new hotel, near the Thames river and the Tower of London, is housed in the onetime headquarters of the Port of London Authority where there was a reception for the inaugural meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1946.
La Dame de Pic is inspired by historical Parisian brasseries but in a dining room that is classically English, with designs by Bruno Moinard of the Paris-based architects 4BI. The head chef will be an Italian, Luca Piscazzi, who previously worked at Amber, in Hong Kong.
The London menu is still being planned, but Pic is known for dishes such as John Dory meunière with green apple, Meyer lemon, green anise and dill light broth; and white “mille-feuille" with Tahitian vanilla cream, jasmine jelly and Voatsiperifery pepper foam. She is planning a fixed-price lunch menu, which may cost about £39 ($50).
Pic's is an interesting story. Her grandfather and father held three Michelin stars at Valence, but she initially decided not to be a chef. She preferred to work the front of house, even though her father had taught her to cook. When the restaurant lost its third star after her father's death, she went into the kitchen and won it back.
"When we lost that star, it was like I had lost my father again," she said. "After I regained it, I felt I can breathe again."
Pic joins another famous French woman chef in London: Helene Darroze holds two Michelin stars for her restaurant at the Connaught hotel. Does Pic think women face particular challenges in the kitchen and does she think of her refined cuisine as feminine?
"I'm not sure it's a question of gender," she said. "The story of French gastronomy started with women. As cuisine became very technical and not so intuitive, the world of the kitchen little by little closed to women and now it is widening again, which is good. Women working in an industry where the majority are not women feel they have to prove more than men.
"It was my case. When I first started, I thought I would not be able to get a third star because I thought if male chefs don’t want me to get it, I would not win it. And I was wrong."
Richard Vines is the chief restaurant critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.