Cora Pearl: ‘There’s a lot of love here’

A mix of French and British influences, the food – for the most part – is fabulous, but it’s the service that dazzles most brightly at Covent Garden restaurant

Friday, 11th January 2019 — By Tom Moggach

Cora Pearl

Fish stew at sophisticated, grown-up Cora Pearl

CHEFS and waiters are tricky customers – hard to please on their precious days off. My friend works long shifts and is fussy about spending her cash. On a night out together, she headed for Henrietta Street in Covent Garden.

We gawped at the four-hour queues for the launch of Din Tai Fung, a cult dumpling restaurant from Taiwan.

More established places such as Frenchie and The Oystermen are always packed. But she bagged a table at Cora Pearl, the second restaurant from the team behind Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair – both named after famous courtesans from centuries gone by.

Many restaurants in London are led by food fashion, burning brightly then fizzling out. But Cora Pearl is a more grown-up establishment, with less show and added sophistication. And the food – for the most part – is fabulous.

The venue is set over two floors. Downstairs is a tiny, discrete space with a bar and handful of tables – ideal for media-shy celebs or adulterous couples.

The main action is on the ground floor – a ravishing, low-lit room in greens and greys. Green velvet banquettes hug the walls. Herringbone patterns are a feature: wood for the floor and glazed green tiles behind the narrow bar on the right. Fans gently swish, whatever the weather, evoking a sultry atmosphere.

Yet it’s the service that dazzles most brightly. The owners understand that intelligent, responsive staff are worth their weight in gold. Both waiters we dealt with were excellent – striking the right balance between witty banter and hawk-eyed attention.

The food is hard to neatly categorise. It’s a mix of French and British influences, reflecting the life of Cora Pearl, who flitted between the two capitals.

The chef is a whizz with sauces and colour – so expect lots of visual fireworks and plates licked clean.

Order the bread, to help with mopping up. It’s served with a dollop of whipped, yeasted butter suggesting a mysterious alchemy with a pot of Marmite.

A starter of glazed pig cheeks was a show-stopper. Three nuggets of slow-cooked, tender pig flesh are crowned with one gigantic fried onion ring for crunch and smaller rings of pickled red onion for acidity.

This riff on circles develops with a swirl of cauliflower purée and tiny spheres of a sweet fruit reduction. “There’s a lot of love here,” says my friend. “I almost don’t want to touch it.”

Other dishes on the menu include fish stew and croutons, pork and turnips, broccoli and almonds or a luxurious upgrade on a ham and cheese toastie.

This is a not a restaurant I would recommend for vegans; vegetarians have a limited choice but are likely to emerge content.

Prices are average for this part of London, with main courses hovering around £20.

Working behind the scenes, my friend understands the subtle art of running a great restaurant. She was elated by this experience, which was worth every penny.

Cora Pearl
30 Henrietta St, WC2E
020 7324 7722

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