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Covent Garden might not carry the same illicit cachet as Shepherd Market but the streets that would still be familiar to Nell Gwyn make an apt setting for this follow-up to Kitty Fisher’s, the most fashionable restaurant of 2015. Like Kitty’s, Cora Pearl is named after another of history’s good-time-girls, although the roles are reversed here: while Kitty’s has a bar above and a dining room below, here the bar is hidden away in the basement while the high-ceilinged, ground-floor restaurant is illuminated at both ends by big windows. Raffish without being scruffy and as suitable for romance as bromance, it’s the sort of room that is cosy in winter and sun-drenched in summer.
The menu might not have a must-order showstopper like the Galician beef that made Kitty Fisher’s the talk of the town, but there are several contenders. Starters of shrimp Ranhöfer – basically prawn cocktail on toast – and elegant-looking, naughty-tasting cheese and ham toasties are high-class canapés, begging you to lick your fingers.
To follow, ‘pork with onions’ turns out to be floppy slices of presa Ibérica draped with spring onions atop a deeply-flavoured onion purée, while veal fillet comes with an even better celeriac purée and a jug of Bordelaise sauce bobbing with bone marrow. Save this for dunking best-in-class chips made with layers of pressed potato: surely the most labour-intensive fries in London.
Cora Pearl is the sort of place where pre-theatre diners might consider missing the curtain-up for a creamy bowl of ‘milk and cookies’ and where tourists won’t believe their luck at having chanced upon that rarest of all pearls: somewhere in Covent Garden where both Londoners and anyone from out of town will feel right at home.
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