5510 Connecticut Ave. NW. 966-7600. Hours: Open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, light fare from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Reservations: Accepted. Prices: At lunch, main dishes from $2.50 to $5. At dinner, $1.85 to $4.75, main dishes $5.75 to $15.50.
It is a devoted neighborhood that fuels the almost 20-year-old Piccadilly, for you can expect to get a decent English meal at best, with no great rewards and no great risks.
Don't look for a quaint pub or formal regency decor but a clubby atmosphere. Local Anglophiles will be placated, however, as the British influence extends to hunt pictures, dark wood and tartans. And like a proper English pub, the beer is unjaded by American proclivities to chill; the bartender serves Bass Ale at its proper temperature.
The menu consists primarily of beef, with a daily curry dish and some seafood. One rule the regulars follow: When ordering meat, remember to ask for two shades rarer. A medium-rare hamburger, a decent-enough patty, came cooked somewhere near--maybe even past--well done. Ditto the mutton chop.
Skip the cock-a-leekie soup; it is a canned-tasting cup of greasy chicken broth with rice the consistency of Styrofoam. Better to go with Welsh rarebit, a crock of thick musty cheese flavored with ale.
Piccadilly pulls a surprise in the savory pie category. It serves a crust the shape of a baby Frisbee alongside the fillings. The fillings, meanwhile, are served in crocks for spooning onto the rounded crust. Not a bad idea, but the arrangement doesn't quite work. A monotonous shepherd's pie with finely ground lamb and potatoes longed for a deep pastry where its gravy could carve a trail.
Aside from the shepherd's pie, the chicken pot pie had hefty chunks of chicken that had possibilities if it had not been left to the devices of a floury cream sauce. The best of the group may have been the steak and kidney pie. The chunks of steak and kidneys were somewhat dried out but were saved by a hearty gravy.
As a matter of fact, the beef dishes are frequently saved by the gravy. Slices of ordinary leg of lamb covered by a gamy, sturdy brown sauce noticeably improved the meat.
It may be safe to venture out of the traditional English entrees; on one evening, a special of cold poached salmon brought kudos from two adjacent tables, as well as an order of prime rib--a thick cut, oozing juices--and this one was red.
Depend on pleasant side dishes. Caesar's salad came with a tasty dressing, fresh carrots and green beans that retained their crunch.
Desserts were so-so; a gooseberry fool, although shy on gooseberries, was topped with real whipped cream, and the trifle was a nice, if uninteresting, way to finish.
Moderately good food, moderate prices--that's what Piccadilly is all about.