It is certainly quite unusual to have only heard great things about a relatively ‘new to the scene’ restaurant, but this was the case with Petit Pois. When I heard that they were closing for a refurb in mid-January, I wanted to experience both the before and after – so decided to make an exception to my already failing Veganuary and book a table.
Venturing out in the first few days of a new year is always a relatively dreary affair, paired with the guilt of going for yet another indulgent meal after the previous couple of weeks. I was pleasantly surprised to find the cute little bistro on Ship Street bustling and busy, as we were greeted and shown to our table by the window.
Our waitress took a couple of minutes to introduce us to the concept which is bang ‘on-trend’ – offering small plates of well-sourced gastronomic delights, which can either be shared or eaten as more traditional courses. Thankfully we were recommended between 2-3 dishes per head which was of great relief, as the first thing to strike me was almost every dish on menu might be something I’d want to try.
French cuisine is of course renown for not holding back on the heavy cream and butter (which I can assure you, Petit Pois most definitely deliver) but also has a reputation for not being overly ‘vegetarian friendly’ – This, I was impressed to see, was not the case at all, judging by the delicious sounding and well-noted vegetarian, gluten-free and even vegan options.
Both Natalie and I are luckily big ‘sharers’ when it comes to eating out, so this really was the ideal place for us – although trying to limit our choices to just six dishes proved impossible.
Despite Natalie’s best efforts to convince me, (due to my intense phobia of frogs) I was unwilling to try my hand at the delicacy of frogs legs – but decided to give the classic of Snails In Garlic and Parsley Butter a go, along with a selection of charcuterie and fromage to kick off our meal.
It has probably been over ten years since I last ate snails, having had the fortune of spending a lot of time at my grandparents’ house in Provence as a child – they were a regular on the menu. Sadly, my opinion was not drastically changed, in that if you put enough garlic and butter on anything it is pretty tasty, but snails themselves don’t really bring much to the party other than a nice shell.
Having eaten more cheese and charcuterie in the last month than the rest of the entire year, I feel well equipped to advise that the quality was notably outstanding, served with delightfully sharp pickled cornichons, sweet grapes and little cubes of tangy apple cider jelly.
I would say, without fail if Scallops feature on a menu – I will order them, so this decision was a no-brainer. Having said that, growing up with a father who supplies seafood, I do have a high benchmark to really impress – which Petit Pois managed to surpass. The perfectly seared scallops were served with butternut squash puree, charred baby gem and hazelnut butter and can summed up in one word – Phenomenal.
Another all-time favourite of mine is duck breast – which again did not disappoint, served suitably pink with a side of rich, creamy celeriac dauphinoise topped off with a tangy micro herb salad which really added a touch of je ne sais quoi!
I was excited that Natalie opted for the Sirloin of Beef, which was served with fondant potato, heritage carrots and a red wine jus. For me the dish was comme ci comme ça – although the beef was very tender, it didn’t have a huge depth of flavour, and was more on the medium rare side of the rare we had ordered, saying this the rich meaty jus was definitely enough to make the dish more than enjoyable.
While we polished off our bottle of the house white, which was a wonderful accompaniment to the meal, we spent a minute or two dithering as to whether we could SQUEEZE in a pudding to share. Eventually we managed to talk one another into ordering a French coffee each, plus a Tart Tatin and a Chocolate Fondant with Pistachio ice cream. Both desserts were impeccable, and having no regrets on the calorie intake is always a fantastic compliment to any restaurant.
I might add, that I was shocked when the entire meal (including wine) came to under the £100 mark – with starters and desserts around £5 and mains for around £10. I’m planning my return visit for as soon as the refurb is complete…