There’s been a bit of talk around town about the new chef in One Pico, and for good reason. Zhan Sergejev spent four years as a sous chef in Derry Clarke’s one Michelin star L’Ecrivain before Clarke and his wife, Sallyanne, called time on one of the city’s most venerable restaurants. Heading up the kitchen at One Pico feels like a natural progression. The cooking here has always been assured and, much like L’Ecrivain, it has been the place to go for classic food without any of the more challenging dishes, such as hare royale, that were a feature of the nearby, and now shuttered, The Greenhouse, which, like One Pico, was owned by restaurateur Eamonn O’Reilly.
Now celebrating 25 years in business, One Pico has always been special occasion or expense account territory in a solidly old school way. Grey velvet seats are reassuringly cosseting, there’s a frisson of formality to the starched, white linen napery, and the room hums with the contented chatter of acclimatised regulars.
There is a considerable level of choice on the three-course €85 menu, but, as a side each is advised, realistically you’re looking at a spend of more than €90 a head. We keep it to one side, with a copper pot of pomme mousseline (€6.50). Prices can tilt further north if you opt for scallops, a €5 supplement, or cheese for an additional €10. And then there’s the wine list, a beautiful piece of reading, but if you drink at the shallower end – like most of us – a bit of excavating is required.
Side-stepping the pre-dinner cocktail for €16, I enlist the advice of the sommelier, Arnaud Legat, indicating a level of spend that won’t imperil the digestion of our pork and halibut main courses. A light Portuguese red, Flor de Maio (€45), does the trick as we tuck into the canapés of toasted nori filled with trout mousse and roe, and a celeriac tartlet.
There are a lot of Japanese-ish dishes doing the rounds at the moment, not all of them successful, but at One Pico, the bluefin tuna with daikon, ponzu, pickled ginger and a touch of togarashi is quite spectacular. It is balanced, light and precise.
Our other starter, the beef tartare, which is tweezer perfect, has a little bit of sweetness from pearl onion leaves that are dotted with pickled mustard. It is good, but not exceptional, and like the tuna and all its renditions, it’s also a popular dish at the moment, so comparisons will be drawn. But there’s a good umami punch from the black garlic and miso butter which is served with torched pain de campagne.
For mains, butter-roasted Andarl Farm pork fillet is baby pink, sitting on a jus with giant cous cous and glazed pork belly, with dots of apricot bringing a touch of sweetness to the dish. Again, it’s all about attention to detail, and the crunchy cabbage leaves are cut into stylish round pieces. Our other main, a long strip of roast halibut, is deliciously fresh, served on roast bone beurre blanc with crunchy carrots and a studied, very cheffy cylinder of carrot cannoli. The pomme puree is suitably decadent with a post milk-quota level of butter.
For dessert, all I can imagine is that there’s a very happy pastry chef in the kitchen, perhaps even one who had a bit of experience in The Greenhouse, as there are familiar options here – a crémeux with salted ice-cream and a passion fruit soufflé. I just love a good soufflé, and this is text book perfect, with a quenelle of Velvet Cloud sheep’s yoghurt sorbet. The Mount Gay rum baba is also very good, sitting on a vanilla mousse with meticulously chopped pieces of pineapple and a pineapple sorbet.
One Pico has all the swagger you’d expect from a one Michelin star restaurant. The cooking is precise, and the wine list is impressive. It is, as you’ll have noticed, right up there with its price point, at a threshold that’s becoming increasingly common as a result of rising costs. While we’re not talking Celtic Tiger gouging, there’s a lot of readjustment happening right across the restaurant sector, and diners are feeling the pinch too. It will be interesting to see where it all shakes out. Although restaurants may not want to hear it, it may be that the lunch menu, such as the €65 option at One Pico, is what makes restaurants at this level accessible.
Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €222.50
The verdict Precise cooking, great service and a special occasion vibe
Facilities Smart with fluffy towels
Music Low key and background
Food provenance Glenmar Seafood, Little Cress Microgreens, Artisan Fine Foods, La Rousse, Odaios, Sheridan’s
Vegetarian options Generally two options, with dishes like wild garlic agnolotti and Loire Valley white asparagus
Wheelchair access No accessible room or toilet