Friday, July 11, 2008


The "modern French" food is masterminded by TV-regular Jun Tanaka, and the name harks back to Pearl Assurance who once occupied the grand building in the heart of London's law district. Real pearls, though, are everywhere, hanging off the ceiling in jawdropping chandeliers.

Considering a single main course will normally set you back a whopping £31.50, the toptable three-courses-for-£30 seemed like a vertiable steal. But be careful, supplements and drinks will quickly inflate the bill.

I am surprised by my strarter of osso buco -- a Milanese dish of braised veal shanks -- which essentially came deep-fried. Still, the meat was tender and as a cheese-loved I quite enjoyed the addition of mozarella. The accompanying artichokes had an unpleasant pickled flavour though and the cold roasted peppers, though nice, tasted like they could have come from a posh jar.

My main course is also not really a winner, the tortellini are tiny, with little sign of the advertised parmesan, and the Swiss Chard turns out to be just an accompaniment rather than a filling. It's a bit bland and confirms my theory that you should steer clear of vegetarian food in expensive restaurants.

Others fare betters, sampling the sea Bream with clams, grapefruit vinaigrette wild leeks and samphire,

and a beautifully pink rump of salt marsh lamb with wild garlic and beans.

In the only desert we sample the dark chocolate contrasts beautifully with the slight tartness of raspberries. And, as all the food, it looks stunning on the plate.

The artisan cheeses come with a £6.50 supplement - a bit much when you only get six slivers from what is, admitedly, a very impressively burdened cheese trolley. We ask the sommelier to recommend a red wine for the cheese. His choice is quite dry and we are not that impressed - something fruitier, more full bodied might have gone better. We are even less impressed when the glasses appear on the bill at around 13 quid each, costing more than the champagne. They are not very gracious when we complain, but do remove one of the glasses from the (already quite hefty) bill.

It leaves a bit of a sour impression. Overall I would say the setting is stunning but taste-wise the food is merely good -- which at these prices isn't enough.

Pearl Restaurant & Bar, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN; Tel. 020 7829 7000; Tube: Holborn;

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