Perilla

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A new Stoke Newington restaurant is taking London by storm.  Christabel Chubb pays a visit…

For two south London girls, Stoke Newington, the  location of the new restaurant du jour, Perilla,  felt a little outside our comfort zone. Needless to say, after a journey involving a tube to Seven Sisters, an overground train and then an Uber to the restaurant itself, we were expecting great things.

Perilla began as a pop-up in East Dulwich – the brainchild of chef Ben Marks and business partner Matt Emmerson. It was a massive success, paving the way for this more permanent Stoke Newington location.  Up north, Perilla exists in a large space overlooking Newington Green with  huge, steamy floor to ceiling windows which wrap around the entire building. At the door, we were greeted by the sounds of happy diners enjoying the dimly lit and rustically decorated space within and the welcoming smells of warm, inviting food. A kind waitress showed us to our table and immediately brought us a drink – very welcome after the mammoth journey we had just undertaken.

We were a party of six, and we all decided to go for the tasting menu – which at £38 a head for 6 courses seemed very reasonable.

Our first course was seaweed brushed bread with roasted lamb fat –  truly sensational. It was served with a creamy whipped butter and flaked sea salt. Something magical happened when the bread was brushed with lamb fat; luxuriously indulgent and not part of anybody’s January regime. If it weren’t for the oncoming five courses, we would have undoubtedly ordered more.

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Following this came a dish of roast Kale with smoked cod roe. A concoction so delicate we were instructed to lift it quickly from the plate into our mouths before it disintegrated. The kale was perfectly crispy and married flawlessly with the roe, which gave a refreshing burst of flavour.

Next the roast cod with cuttlefish Bolognese. Why it is called this I am unsure as it bore no resemblance to the tomatoey, cheesey Bolognese sauce we were all expecting. Instead we were greeted by fresh and salty fish in a light sauce served with chard, all cooked to perfection, and (though not over-seasoned), it was salty enough that the accompanying Trebbiano was a perfect partner.

A small break was now necessary, during which our glasses were happily topped up, and we had a moment to take in the bustling atmosphere. One long table in the centre of the restaurant would be perfect for large parties and celebrations, and small tables for two were filled with couples.

Our fourth course came in the form of ‘Potroast broccoli served with Hung yogurt’. The yogurt is served at the table – a vivid green accompaniment to what can only be described as a broccoli steak – deliciously charred trees and perfectly tender stalks. Any childhood aversions to broccoli evaporated immediately.

So far we had enjoyed an entirely vegetarian/pescatarian meal, and were keen for some red meat, which duly arrived in the form of short rib. The meat was cooked to perfection, fell apart on the plate, and was refreshingly accompanied by a tart beef and quince sauce and radishes, which were needed for a bit of bite. Silence fell on the table as we all ate and enjoyed. Portion sizes were not too little, not too much. You didn’t feel overly stuffed but at this point, did not need another savoury course.

Enter cheese. Presented with another loaf of the famous seaweed and lamb fat bread from heaven, and next to it a baked wheel of Vacherin, which I can confirm is even better than the much-loved baked camembert. We ate this with slices of pear, which for some of the boys around the table was a foreign idea, but they were soon converted by the combination of salty bread and cheese and sweet pear, though a jam or chutney of some sort would have been welcome.

Just when we thought we couldn’t fit in another morsel, dessert arrived. A grapefruit custard with basil and olive oil. Using basil and olive oil – two savoury ingredients  – in dessert is a risk, but one which paid off. The olive oil was perfectly sweet and full of flavour, and prevented the custard from being overpoweringly tart.  Of course, in this case an excellent olive oil is fundamental.  The dessert wasn’t rich; instead it was smooth and the perfect palate cleanser at the end of a meal which was so full of wonderfully rich tastes.

It’s difficult to fault Perilla. Even without the mouth-watering menu, the decoration and atmosphere would be  thrill enough, but here the real focus is always on the food –  unadulterated ingredients used to make dishes by chefs who, you can tell by the precision, creativity and execution, know exactly what they are doing and are totally confident in doing it. I would strongly recommend a journey to N16 – however long it takes – and also recommend that on arriving you order the tasting menu. It is put together with care in order to provide you with an array of perfectly complementary dishes.

Perilla at 1-3 Green Lanes, Mildmay Ward, London N16, tel 0207 359 0779, perilladining.co.uk

Tasting menu for two, before drinks and service £76

Food ⋆⋆⋆⋆ Ambience ⋆⋆⋆⋆ Service ⋆⋆⋆⋆