Cora Pearl: Our verdict on the most talked-about restaurant of the year

Kitty Fisher’s little sister brings the naughty and the complex to Covent Garden

In music, it is known as the feared DSAS (Difficult Second Album Syndrome); for US college students, it is the “sophomore slump”; and for statisticians, it is the (far less catchy) “regression towards the mean“.

No matter what your field, scoring a second success following a roaring initial triumph is a perennial problem.

Cora Peal is housed in a historic, Grade II listed building, in London's Covent Garden

And so, for Tom Mullion, Tim Steel and Oliver Milburn — the foodie gang behind the one-time buzziest restaurant in town, Kitty Fisher’s, the vice-like pressure was on for their second outing: Cora Pearl in London’s Covent Garden.

GJ headed across town for lunch to see if DSRS (Difficult Second Restaurant Syndrome, if you hadn’t caught on), was also a thing — or whether the trio had achieved the culinary equivalent of Radiohead’s The Bends.

What’s the vibe?

Relaxed, cosy and intimate enough to eavesdrop on fellow-diners’ conversations, there’s the air of naughty Parisian boudoir at Cora Pearl. The sort of place you can get away with drinking a cocktail or two at lunch which, as it happens, is exactly what we did.

Surrounded by chain restaurants (itself the site of a Bella Pasta in a former life), this high-ceilinged, atmospheric, dining room is exactly what Covent Garden needed (that and to rid its pavements of tatty floating Yodas).

What's to eat?

Comfort food with a twist from head chef George Barson

“The chips, my friend, are the dish of the year. Dish of the decade. Dish of the century,” the words of Giles Coren. Quite something to live up to, but once you’ve bit into one, it’s multiple layers like deep fried dauphinoise potatoes, you can see what got The Times correspondent so frothy.

On the surface, the menu looks like something of a “back to basics” affair, featuring classics such pork and onions, fish stew and cheese and ham toasties.

Don’t be fooled however — these are culinary masterpieces masquerading as British comfort food. The toastie we’re told is painstakingly made by head chef George Barson and his team, with tenderised salty ham hock, and oozing with melted cheese and a sweet, sweet sauce which could pass as Branston Pickle’s more refined but slightly risque older brother.

What's to drink?

Whether enjoying a glass with your meal, or rubbing shoulders in the even more cosy downstairs bar, there is a healthy selection of Old World wines and cocktails to whet your whistle, whatever the time of the day.

We finished off with a Chaine d’Or, featuring gin, Quinquina, Chartreuse and lime. This is a reference to four rich French men who helped the original Cora Pearl, a Victorian Courtesan, find fame in London and, it was said, become “the scandal and the toast of Paris.”

In a nutshell

The team behind Kitty Fisher’s make it two-times lucky, with naughty but complex comfort food in the heart of Covent Garden.  

Cora Pearl, 30 Henrietta St, WC2E 8NA;

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Further Reading