Posted on Wednesday, 17th December 2008
Note: Pearl Restaurant has now closed.
I like pearls. But there was a time when I thought, given a choice, I would have chosen diamonds over pearls any day, diamonds being that much shinier. Like how Marilyn Monroe use to wax lyrical about Harry Winston in “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”, I would nod in silent agreement and say bring them on.
But as I’ve gotten older, (for arguments sake, let’s say past my early 20s) my take on pearls has mellowed. Pearls are classy, and I must confess I wouldn’t mind some of those now in my jewellery box. They would be the perfect accessory to chic work suit, just the touch to make you feel like you’ll ace that job interview no matter what. Or they could dress up a classic evening gown, with enough glamour to light up any venue, from ballrooms of Britannia Hotels to cruise ships and fine restaurants. Diamonds could be reserved for the most dazzling occasions! Not that I have either diamonds or pearls mind, it’s just that they would both be nice to have. Sigh. A girl has to dream…
Anyway, my pre-ramble was brought on in part by the occasion of my dinner at Pearl Restaurant the other night. I adore Pearl Restaurant. I’ve been there on a couple of occasions, even managing to high-tail it once to the private dining room. My experiences at Pearl in the past have always been thoroughly enjoyable: great food, accomplished service, good company. And befitting a gem of a restaurant, it’s all shiny and sparkling.
Over a million hand-strung pearls dangle along the length of the bar which you must strut past in order to arrive at your table. They shimmer and emit soft flashes of shine in an all too seductive, ‘come hither’ kind of way. The bar is elegance personified: classically beautiful, classy and chic with warm walnut panelling, comfortable leather armchair seating and touches of marble throughout. Walking along this bejewelled path, one can’t help but feel that it would have been rather appropriate to be slinking down in a sexy little black Armani number with killer Manolo Blahniks and some gorgeous little pearls to boot.
Except on this particular occasion of my dinner at Pearl, a restaurant with a modern take on classic French cuisine, I was wearing anything but. More like jeans and a nice sweater. And rather than partaking from the standard à la carte menu (1 course, £32; 2 courses, £46; 3 courses, £54) or the tasting menu (£64), we were merely sampling the 3-course ‘special offer’ that I had secured through Toptable. My experiences of the special offers on Toptable have run the gamut of hits and misses. Actually probably more misses than hits, so it is always with extreme care that I deign to click that cursor on any Toptable special offer. But Pearl Restaurant is altogether in a different league, and chef Jun Tanaka is a wondrous chef with an exquisite touch, having started his career at Le Gavroche and worked at some of London’s other great Michelin restaurants such as The Capital and The Square. Therefore in times of such credit crunch blues, the special offer of three courses with wine for £30 seemed unbeatable value for this calibre of cooking, even if the options were limited to only three choices per course.
Elegance personified, the dining room is an impressive extension of the bar. The hand-strung pearls again adorn this ample space and stunning chandeliers illuminate the ceiling. We started with a sample of delectable amuse-bouches, and moved onto a glorious starter of warm salad of crisp pig’s trotter and marinated veal rump with celeriac and apple. The pig’s trotter was deliciously soft and moist, with the added bite of crunchiness from its crispy crumbed outer coating. Add the multitude of flavours from the velvety smooth veal rump; the gooey, slightly runny centre of the quail’s egg; the fresh, delicate greens and slight sweetness of the apple, and it tasted of textural heaven.
A main of braised beef with celeriac puree and roast roscoff onion was moist, succulent and deeply flavourful, a perfect execution of a braised beef dish. A roasted smoked salmon was prepared perfectly, although the smokiness of the fish was perhaps a little overpowering for the dish. It was accompanied by a scotch egg and a spring onion risotto which was creamy and decadent.
A dessert of pistachio and plum streusel and plum sorbet was simply sensational. A cake of pistachio and plum was both a little nutty and a little sweet from the soft baked fruit. Add the crunchy, sugary, crumbly topping, and it melded perfectly with the moist, buttery cake. Another dessert of poached pear williams in sauternes jelly, milk chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream was rich and creamy and a definite must for chocolate mousse lovers.
Our 3-courses were then followed by complementary petit fours and fairy floss. It was all rather impressive to see this volume of food, given such a well-priced menu, but more impressive perhaps for wine lovers is Pearl’s comprehensive array of wine choices. Pearl’s award winning wine list houses over 1,400 bottles of wine and also purports to offer the most extensive choices of premium wines by the glass. Pearl utilises a Cruvinet system, which employs nitrogen to expel oxygen from the opened bottles that allow for the over 40 different types of wines by the glass at Pearl to maintain their freshness when opened.
Service was slick, refined and unpretentious. And my friend, she was good company too. So once again, my time at Pearl was thoroughly enjoyable: great food, accomplished service, good company.
Yeah, Pearl’s shiny. What a little gem.
Pearl Restaurant and Bar at:
252 High Holborn,
London, WC1V 7EN
Tel: +44 (0)20 7829 7000