Cora Pearl, Covent Garden: restaurant review

Second restaurants can be tricky, but Cora Pearl – the new site from the team behind Kitty Fishers – brings complex comfort food with a note of naughtiness to Covent Garden

Bloody Mary mackerel at Cora Pearl restaurant, Covent Garden
Interior seating at Cora Pearl, Covent Garden

What's the draw

The second site from the folks behind Mayfair restaurant Kitty Fisher's, Cora Pearl brings together sumptuous, boudoir-style interiors and a menu that straddles the best of English and Parisian dining. The high-ceilinged, parquet-floored upstairs dining room is mirrored by an intimate bar downstairs, which is well worth arriving early enough to pull up a pew at. It's cheeky, it's classy, and let's face it – in a part of London that's shoulder-to-shoulder with busy chain restaurants, we could all do with a place to eat a little bit like this.

What to drink

We kicked things off with the 1801, which pairs Teeling Small Batch whiskey with plum sake, plum reduction and plum bitters. Served with a tangy beetroot crisp perched on the rim of the glass, it's plummy (obviously), but that richness gives way to the caramel and spice of the whisky. On the wine side of things, glasses of youthful, deliciously apple-y Marcotte Blanc from the Languedoc on tap at £5.50 a glass, while a stalky, mineral 2016 Chinon produced by Domaine de la Semellerie in the Loire was the perfect red to partner some of the meatier dishes.

What to eat

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You'd be forgiven for thinking the simple listings on the menu at Cora Pearl would mean the food was pure, simple and back to basics. And to some degree it is, leaning on classic British comfort food with a knowing kitschness, but that doesn't mean any attention to detail is spared in its execution. Take the Cheese & Ham Toastie: you know exactly what you're getting here, but what you don't account for is the perfection achieved somewhere between the gentle squishiness of the three finger-sized sarnies, the tender ham hock and oozing cheddar, and the tart, sweet and delicate clone of Branston that adds texture and crunch with its minutely diced veg. The Pork & Onions is just the same: not any old pork, but a pair of sumptuous medium-pink cuts of presa Ibérica served with the soft, sweet roots and leaves of onions in a rich jus. And for god's sake, eat it with the chips: actually deep-fried stacks of mandolined potato known in France as pavés de pommes, these are complex, comforting and – like most of the of the menu here – just perfect for the fine food lover with base, naughty urges. What's clear about the food at Cora Pearl is that chef George Barson knows exactly what English people enjoy eating, and isn't afraid of serving just that.

Mains from £15; wine from £4.50 by the glass. 30 Henrietta St, WC2E 8NA;