The Pikey Cafe & Bar

By TRILBY BERESFORD | Reporter

Photography by Rich Schmitt | Staff Photographer

There is something so wonderfully homey about a British pub. From the smell of beer and tartar sauce providing a welcoming aroma that filters through the air, to the dark wooded walls and dim lights adding a feeling of romance and mystery, and finally, to the sounds of ’60s and ’70s bands transporting guests into yesteryear.

Oh, and the food: tasty, saucy and simple. Because simple is sexy.
Without further ado, allow us to introduce The Pikey Café & Bar, a British pub on vacation in Hollywood. It fits the aforementioned description.

Jaison Burke is the executive chef, a New Yorker raised in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was introduced to cooking by his mother, a food and beverage director for Hilton Hotels.

He trained at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and to this day, hires interns from the school to work with him. Among their tasks is an assignment to read a series of books by journalist Michael Ruhlman: “The Soul of a Chef,” “The Reach of a Chef,” “The Making of a Chef,” and on and on. It’s heady stuff.

In another life, Burke donned a corporate chef hat for the LWP Group in San Diego and performed chef de cuisine duties at Ojai Valley Inn. He has been a familiar face in restaurants for 20 years.

During a hiatus from professional cooking, Burke went traveling in Asia and emerged fully equipped to cook their cuisine—it became his staple at home.

Asked by the Palisadian-Post what he enjoys most about cooking, Burke answered matter-of-factly: “Nourishing people.” He admitted to not being an artistic person on paper, but the kitchen is where he feels compelled to exercise creativity.

The first dish on the table was Beef Carpaccio with rocket (known as arugula in the USA), shaved fennel, aged Gouda and sherry. The greens were luscious; the beef was delicate, well seasoned and easy to eat.

Beef Carpaccio.

Barman Tim Perkins mixed a strikingly colored Twiggy to complement the food service. It arrived in a tall glass and contained a meddling of champagne, gin, Aperol liqueur and scrumptious elderflower. A slice of orange added extra curb appeal. An additional sampling of cocktails included the refreshing vodka- and cucumber-infused Laddie Dill and the bold flavored Ginger Minge.

Crispy brussel sprouts.

The Crispy Brussell Sprouts were satisfying because the sprouts were given star treatment—a few circles of pickled peppers here and there—but otherwise, just good old green veg to nourish the soul.

Among the Pikey’s signature dishes are the Fish and Chips and Char-Grilled Beef Burger, and we had the pleasure of tasting both. Even if you’re not a Brit, there’s something so satisfying about picking up a piece of snapper with your fingers and plunging it into chunky tartar sauce.

Talking about fingers, the chips were finger-sized, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside (a texture they achieve by a method of “thrice-cooking:” frying, baking and frying again). An American will likely dip them in ketchup, but one might suggest trying the malt vinegar instead—a British pub staple.

In restaurants across the board, burgers seem to have increased in size, epitomizing the idea that “bigger is better.” But the Pikey burger was the ideal height and width. An honest burger with purposeful ingredients: cheddar cheese, tomato and aioli. It was a delight and a reason to return.

Waiter Tarikh Joseph carries the Scottish Salmon.

At this point, sous chef Malakai Monterrosa emerged from the kitchen depths to see how things were going. He was energetic and attentive; a burst of bubbly fun. Things were going splendidly and they elevated once the salmon arrived.

Now at first glance, Scottish Salmon might appear oddly placed on a pub menu, but it is a must-order. The fish sits on a bed of Cannellini puree, alongside sprigs of lamb’s lettuce, tomatoes and fennel, and offers a gentle buttery zing. This dish is one of Burke’s favorites, but even he seemed surprised when it became more of a talking point than the burger or the fish and chips.

Craving sweetness at the end of the meal, we gave a warm welcome to the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch and Clotted Cream. All these words are very British, almost comically so.

As one of the most popular desserts, sticky toffee pudding is often horrendously misguided in American restaurants, but luckily the Pikey know what it is doing. When butterscotch is made right, it’s a thick sauce that coats the spoon. Given the attention it deserves, the pudding should be lovely and moist. This dish was all those things.

A surprising highlight of the meal was the Coffee Nudgie, a dangerous concoction of hot coffee, Jack Daniels, Ristretto and whipped cream. Despite its richness, the layered flavors warranted a constant application of sipping.

Given the Pikey’s location on Sunset Boulevard, it attracts foot traffic and remains busy every night. Unsurprisingly, the wait staff is comprised mostly of actors.

The restaurant is an ideal destination for a casual group dinner or date, and the back room offers a more private setting for a concentrated conversation to take place.

For those keen to indulge in French fare, Pikey has a sister restaurant called Barbette in West Hollywood. That’s the great thing about eating in Los Angeles; the curious trails of discovery continue indefinitely.