Daniel Boulud's protégé Thomas Piat is revelling being back in London, towering over the City in D&D London's 14th-floor restaurant. Will Hawkes pays a visit
You could never describe the interior of 14 Hills as understated. Based in 120 Fenchurch Street, £5m has been spent on its Robert Angell-designed, plant-filled interior, with its huge oval-shaped bar and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Thames and the Tower of London.
The same might be said of the menu at this 14th-floor restaurant, which was opened by D&D London in November. Thomas Piat, once of London's Bar Boulud and most recently employed by Hélène Darroze at Jòia in Paris, was brought back to London to lead a 20-strong kitchen team.
"It's all about the show," he says. "My favourite dishes on the menu are the dishes for two – the côte de boeuf (£35 per person) or the leg of lamb (£38). It's something really cool: it's set on a bowl created especially for the purpose, and it's carved in front of the diners. It's theatre."
That much was clear at the launch evening, when guests including Jodie Kidd, Professor Green and Monica Galetti enjoyed a selection of the restaurant's signature dishes, including a starter of white crab, cauliflower and Oscietra caviar (£17.50) and a Rossini main course comprising beef fillet, mushroom duxelle, seared duck liver, toast, truffle and a Madeira sauce (£36).
But Piat is not wedded to these dishes. "I get bored quite quickly," he says. "We are already thinking about changes for 2020, the seasonal changes, and changes to the lunch menu – I want to change that as often as possible to make sure we build up a regular clientele."
The restaurant is currently doing about 200 covers for lunch and 170 for dinner, he adds. The à la carte menu offers something for everyone. Described by D&D's website as "modern British with French flair", it runs the gamut from a pork, duck and pistachio terrine starter (£14) to a variety of vegan dishes, including a main of wild mushroom tart made with braised salsify and black winter truffle (£20).
"For the moment the menu is developed to ensure we offer a different selection of fish and meat," he says. "We really focus on vegetarian and vegan as well – we don't want anyone to feel left out. Vegans have the right to have anything they want on the menu, and obviously we need to work on that more and more. For me, having a successful vegan dish on the menu means that it should also appeal to somebody who loves meat. It doesn't need to be fancy and light and use some weird ingredient."
There's a large private room, with space for 22 to sit and brunch at the weekend, too. Diners can choose from brunch classics like eggs Benedict (£8) or smashed avocado on toast (£7), or a selection of dishes from the à la carte menu.
The set lunch menu (two courses at £28, three at £32) is more French flair than modern British, with a ham hock terrine, beef rump with béarnaise and a chocolate tart. The overall impression here is that of a modern brasserie, with the different expectations and pressures that brings. "During the week, because we are in the middle of the City, we have some people who are on their lunch break," he says.
"To make their way up to the 14th floor can take a bit of time, so they expect the whole experience in a short amount of time. It's quite challenging but it's a nice feeling."
Head sommelier Elise Meriguard has put together a France-heavy wine list that reflects the restaurant's opulence, including a Love Wines section, which features some of the world's classic wines, from a 2006 Meursault to a 1999 Pauillac.
Piat says he is happy to be back in the capital (he was at Bar Boulud in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London until 2018) after a year in his native Paris. "It's the life, it is the clientele, it is the friends that we met for the eight years spending here," he says. "And it is the pace of life, obviously."
Piat's eyes light up when he talks about Boulud, who he worked for first in New York and then in London. "He became the mentor of my career, and we stayed together for 10 years. I was loyal to Daniel, because he always kept me motivated and kept me working my way up. I never really get bored working for him. Maybe one day I could go back."
For now, his focus is on 14 Hills, with its indoor forest and celebratory menu. "People will come here for the decoration, and they will come here for the food as well," he says.
From the menu
- Beetroot: heritage beets, kale, apple and quinoa salad £9
- Sea bream ‘crudo', calamansi olive oil, sweet potato, red onion, red chilli, coriander £13
- Duck liver ballotine, figs, quince, homemade brioche £18
- Turbot, roasted on the bone, cuttlefish risotto, beurre blanc £34
- Kiev: free-range chicken breast, roast garlic and parsley butter, cabbage coleslaw £22
- Ribeye: Aberdeen Angus cross, 28-day aged, 300g £31
- Custard tart, nutmeg, salted caramel ice-cream £6.50
- Chestnut, rum, mascarpone, blood orange £8
- Chocolate tart, whisky fruits, nuts, spice £8
14 Hills, 14th floor, 120 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 5BA https://14hills.co.uk