Glass previews Peugeot’s new state-of-the-art food truck

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“Food, and products relating to food, are things we’ve been building since the business opened. It was a food business that started the Peugeot business.” said Design Lab head Cathal Loughnane when we sat down with him at the unveiling of the company’s food truck in Paris this month. He’s right; believe it or not, the brand we oft associate with cars began life as a creator of kitchen appliances. The sleek, futuristic salt and pepper grinders on your Michelin-starred table? Turn them over, they’re likely stamped with the Peugeot Lion – a symbol the brand chose to signify innovation, bravery and leadership.

The latter is certainly demonstrated by the company’s Design Lab, which is based in the outskirts of Paris and creates state-of-the-art pieces including motorbikes, sofas and even pianos. The team had uprooted for the day to present some of its greatest designs, past and present, in the beautifully renovated, conservatory-like Carreau Du Temple. What we were really here to see, though, was sat in its own, expansive space around one of the building’s corners. They named it Le Bistrot du Lion because, as Cathal explained, “today, a food truck is just a mobile kitchen. We wanted our food truck to be a mobile restaurant. It transforms into a restaurant when you park it; it creates a space for people to be in, so you aren’t just standing on a sidewalk.”

When we glided in Gare de Nord the evening before, we were as much in the dark as the city itself. We knew there was going to be a truck, but we weren’t expecting this. The sun shone off its pristine, silver surfaces. Panels of terracotta spoke of rustic, family dining. A supplementary trailer, prettily bedecked in coffee-shop paraphernalia, was serving artisanal espressos – the rich smell of which engulfed the table-filled space. 9am had not long passed, but Sven Chartier (of Saturne) and his team were already making good use of the kitchen.

Breakfasts arrived in perfectly proportioned boxes; so prettily presented they were akin to modern works of art. In one box, a vibrant salad of plump grapefruit and maroon-stained blood orange, in another, a beautifully crispy, honey-infused madeleine. The piece de résistance, though, was the egg. It looked simply boiled; it wasn’t. The interior had been partly scooped out, what remained was then dipped into a boiling bath so that it cooked very slightly, but remained liquid soft. The remainder was then whipped and returned to the shell. As if it could get any better – it was presented along with a slice of cheese, sandwiched between two crisp pieces of bacon, and a toast solider, ready to be dipped.

Cathal told us that they wanted someone young and exciting to helm the kitchen, and Chartier certainly fits the bill. We were lucky enough to have a brief word with the chef in the small space of time between breakfast and the impressive, multi-course lunch.

Can you describe the food you’re creating in the truck?
Earthy, organic, fresh and fast.

What are your main culinary influences?
Roots… because good ingredients are fresh ingredients. How could an ingredient be better than when it’s fresh from the garden? 99 per cent of the time, you make it less good by changing it too much. I think, what more can I bring to it?

What’s the biggest difference, between here and your restaurant kitchen?
It’s a very good kitchen, very professional, much better than a lot of restaurant kitchens! Small but… well formed.

His focus on purity and simplicity was especially evident in the first starter that arrived: plump and vivid asparagus with a dipping pot of sun-orange egg yolk and Parmigiano. The taste was sensational; the vegetable was only lightly cooked, so it sat on the delicious line between crisp and soft, while the dip added punch to each bite. We’d have begged for seconds had the next dish, a pretty composition of white beetroot and sashimi, not quickly arrived in front of us. This came with fresh raspberries – an unlikely flourish – but the result was exceptional, with a light, subtle taste occasionally punctuated and drawn out by the tartness of the fruit.

The final starter was equally spectacular. Immediately reminiscent of Massimo Bottura’s Caesar salad, it was a bouquet of garden leaves that cleverly concealed a multitude of carefully placed ingredients including nuts and cheese. We had two of these. As for the main course, the chef veered into traditional street-food territory, perhaps to show the versatility of the truck, and offered a very neat, and very delicious, lamb burger with cabbage in a soft white bun.

Is there anything you can’t cook in the truck?
Not yet … let’s see what happens.

by Becky Zanker

Le Bistrot du Lion will be at the 2015 World’s Fair, Expo Milan, from May-October 2015.

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Glass Online dining and culture writer

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