One only needs to stroll past Perilla early on a Tuesday evening to see the stylish dining room teeming with regulars. It’s a Swiss army knife of a restaurant; romantic but great for groups, buzzy but not too loud, inventive but not too experimental. The food is by no means cheap, but neither are ingredients of this quality. Besides, the prices here include service, which is prompt and amicable.
Even Perilla’s bread is famous, and by no means overhyped. Its sharp crust, fluffy innards and lashings of brown butter quickly have us entranced. Having located the cutlery drawers on each side of the table, we eagerly await more mastery. Soon, cabbage and sorrel are piled into a featherweight vol-au-vent, with a moat of brown butter hollandaise to spike the heap with energy. Elsewhere, some mushrooms are pressed into croquettes, while others become the rich sauce atop them. It’s elegant yet playful, complex yet effortless. Even the drinks - a hot honey margarita, in particular - embody this theme.
Other dishes push this even further, with varying levels of success. An all-star line-up of mackerel, oyster, beetroot and salmon roe jostle on a girder of rosti and, while undoubtedly delicious and picturesque, the ensemble ends up feeling a touch chaotic. The finale of whole baked bream, however, is a rip-roaring success, stuffed with spicy-sweet red peppers, wrapped in vine leaves and topped with softened red grapes. The epilogue of this riveting narrative comes as a quenelle of the greenest green: Granny Smith and soft herb sorbet. Like much of what we eat here, it is fresh, bursting with flavour and utterly mesmerising.
Perilla was opened with the aim of becoming a special neighbourhood restaurant with a loyal following. Almost exactly six years later, to say this goal was achieved would be a gross understatement. We just wish it was our local.