THE PERSEVERANCE: PEARL OF THE QUARTER
When I was resting between jobs (you'll probably remember my role as Pale in The Tinsley Players production of Lanford Wilson's Burn This) I kept a spreadsheet of restaurants which were due to open.
Exhibiting slightly alarming tendencies of the anorak variety (most men have them but usually keep them firmly under control) I would scour the trade rags and job sites for news about new restaurants and count down the days to when they finally opened. I would pitch up for a meal - barely giving the paint on the doors a chance to dry - usually to the bemusement of the staff.
Things change. Now with increased use of social media by PRs and Chefs most places are known about well before they open. Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner is a good example. It’s also made it pretty difficult to find those undiscovered gems that made all the list-keeping so worthwhile.
Or so I thought until recently when a tipoff from someone I follow on Twitter had me running to Google Maps (RIP A to Z). My contact had mentioned a pub which now had new owners. The lineage of the staff pointed to the Anchor and Hope in Waterloo. I'd got a similar tip from the same person about the rather wonderful Canton Arms in Stockwell so I knew it would be a lead worth following up.
The Perseverance is situated in a quiet road in an odd little area north of the Marylebone Road and just round the corner from the charming Marylebone Station, an area which has thankfully yet to be designated ‘a village’.
The pub has been stripped down, cleaned up and given a lick of paint to produce a casually elegant space which is dominated by a large horseshoe bar. At the moment there’s just a few tables to eat at but there are plans to open a 40 cover dining room on the first floor.
If you're a fan of bling or any sort of see-and-be-seen, er, scene then The Perseverance may not be for you. It's got a relaxed feel that I liked but the emphasis is definitely on the things that matter: food and drink. I'll eat a lot of meals in the forthcoming year but I like to think the ones I’ve had here will be up there with the best.
The menu was one of those that you look at and wish one’s capacity to eat wasn’t being slowly diminished year by year – I genuinely would have been happy eating any of the dishes on it (apart from the soup which I’m sure is terrific but which I hardly ever order in a restaurant).
Chef Justin Aubrey’s food is not of the shouty type that blasts the taste buds with over-reduced sauces and flavours that clamour for attention and which leave you feeling a little ill. No, this is deceptively simple stuff but made with good ingredients and a fine technique to give a surprisingly refined result.
For a starter the Monkfish Liver is probably as interesting and delicious a dish as you can get in London at the moment. Two decent-sized lobes of Monkfish Liver had been lightly browned in butter. They were soft with a delicate flavour of offal and of the sea. A sort of piscine Foie Gras. It had been paired with a salad of Parsley, Capes and Shallot to add a burst of piquancy.
A bowl of steamed Clams had the heady aroma of the bivalves best buddies: garlic and lemon. They were fresh and meaty and left a small puddle of shellfish broth into which I had to dunk chunks of the good homemade bread.
Saddle of Rabbit had been boned and stuffed with its own offal and some greens. The whole had been rolled and covered in bacon and sliced. It was moist and tender with that faint taste of game that rabbit has but with an offal hit. It came with a little jug of a creamy mustard sauce and a small dish of a rich Celeriac Gratin.
Another main course was an individual Wellington. Fillet of Bambi was covered with a mushroom duxelles in the classic manner and wrapped in excellent pastry. A slick of jus, some watercress and excellent red cabbage made for a fine dish to say goodbye to January to. This is seasonal food without making a song and dance about it.
Good pastry was also in evidence in the puds as well. Over a couple of visits there’s been a tart on the menu and the Lemon one particularly stood out in the memory with it’s crumbly pastry and light, zesty lemon cream. Three scoops of a Salty Butter Caramel Ice Cream had proper texture and just the right amount of bitter caramel taste. A similar number of scoops of a tart Granny Smith sorbet would be a good choice if you’d overindulged during the rest of the meal (maybe too much of the marvellous bread); a cup of their good Coffee with a Grappa would serve the same purpose.
The wine list has been intelligently put together with several natural wines available – if that floats your boat – but I was guided towards a terrific Beaujolais which seemed like it would go with anything. Like the food the prices seem pretty reasonable to me and if you don’t want to splash out on a bottle there’s plenty available by the glass or two sizes of pot.
When I’ve visited good, independent operations I’ve always bemoaned the fact that there aren’t more of them around especially in the central parts of the capital. With chains increasingly cluttering up our high streets the hope that we could have similar joints on every corner begins to look like a pipe dream. Places like The Perseverance make me think there’s still hope. Budding restaurateurs please take note or better yet pay them a visit, they’re nice people.