Pichet is one of the very few restaurants that have taken the plunge and opened in 2009. You could call that an act of immense bravery, or optimism gone mad, or just possibly very smart. The thing is that Pichet has a lot going for it. First it's well placed -- right next door to the multi-storey car park off Trinity Street, and second it has a very fine chef.
Stephen Gibson was head chef in L'Ecrivain before starting this venture with a well-known front of house manager, completing the third thing it has going for it. Nick Munier is a face you all know: He was the maître d' on Marco Pierre White's Hell's Kitchen, and now is one of the Masterchef judges along with Dylan McGrath.
Put those three elements together and things really ought to go right. I turned up with my son Rocco on a Thursday evening without a reservation, but they found us a table outside in the covered area.
Since we both smoke, this gave us the opportunity to do the one thing I really enjoy after a meal -- smoke a cigarette with my espresso. The restaurant was very busy, a good sign, I thought. We got our menus and some really good sour-dough bread. It's one of my favourite breads, I just love that sour-dough smell. It came with some olive oil instead of butter, a nice Mediterranean touch.
There's a set menu and an à la carte, so we decided that Rocco would eat from the à la carte and I'd eat from the set menu, which offers two courses for €22 and three for €27. This runs each day until 6.30pm, and there's a set option every lunchtime, including Sunday when two courses are €20, and three aRE €25.
The à la carte has some lovely touches to it, little flourishes that set the dishes apart from the norm. Clever combinations of ingredients and tastes make this menu a gourmet's delight. Rocco was reading it, making little 'mmm' noises every now and then, until he decided on the rigatoni pasta with slow-braised rabbit and truffle. He followed this with the suckling pig, while from the set menu I chose the ham hock terrine to start and the roast cod for my main course. The wine list is interesting. It's a large A3 sheet laid out in three sections: wines by the glass, wines by the pichet, and wines by the bottle.
If the word's new to you, a pichet is French for a jug. In this case the pichets are either a quarter or a half litre. Six reds, seven whites and one rosé are available like this, and the same wines are available by the glass. The mark-up is reasonable and the wines are well-chosen and not run-of-the-mill. I wasn't drinking, but my dining companion was. Rocco chose the rosé, a wine from the hills of the northern Rhone. This was a real wine, not a rosé made as a by-product of a red wine. It was delicate and finely balanced, a real delight. He chose a Syrah from the same region for his main course, also from the same producer. I drank two bottles of mineral water and tasted both of the wines.
Our starters were first rate. The rigatoni came well sauced with the rabbit meat on the top. The sauce was flavoured with truffle and Parmesan, and these two flavours went well with the rabbit. It hurts me to say this, but the ham hock terrine was better than the one I make. Not only that, but with it was the best sauerkraut I've ever tasted. A balsamic apple purée added a finishing touch. When the starters were removed we were asked if we wanted to keep the bread. If only that were asked as a matter of course in all restaurants. I answered yes and we were brought some more of the excellent sour-dough. The main courses were as well executed as the starters. The suckling pig dish was the belly, but it was remarkable. Somehow the crackling was crispy, yet you could cut it easily with a knife -- no easy trick to accomplish. It came with puy lentils, the same sauerkraut I'd enjoyed with my starter and pieces of Toulouse sausage.
This dish and my cod, which came with a lobster foam on top and was accompanied by squid rings and confit tomatoes, were both really well done. We finished with a cheese plate, a sticky toffee pudding to share and another glass of the fine rosé. Good artisan cheeses and a tasty dessert made a fine end to a very good meal. Even the espressos were above average. The bill was €96.25, of which €31.25 was drinks.