the UK based Restaurant and Hotel Review

Louise Elgin felt comfortable in this relaxing new City restaurant-bar

The city is a masculine place, bars are crowded and smoky, restaurants loud and noisy. Deals are being done, testosterone fills the air, not a place for the female sex to feel cosseted or wish to linger, until now.

Perc%nto (yes that's the way they spell it!) is one of a new breed of restaurants that I suspect is long overdue, and must have the women of the square mile rejoicing. The atmosphere is modern, European and airy, a place where one can really unwind as the whole environment is one of relaxation and calm. The bar and restaurant are furnished with comfortable chairs with arm rests, there is spacious room between tables and the music is mellow and distant. This was a very good start and put us in the mood for enjoying ourselves.

We were whetting our appetite with a delicious glass Marsanne '99 whilst mentally digesting the menu which was varied and interesting, from the classic Italian antipasti to rather more adventurous selections. We had the squid terrine with smoked sweet chilli, vegetables and balsamic vinegar dressing, and the thinly sliced seabass marinated with lime leaves and cumin, with wild salad and avocado.

My squid terrine tasted incredibly fresh, and the accompanying wild leaves, dressing and chilli salad and the vegetables which it was sandwiched between all contributing to a kaleidoscope of flavours. The marinated seabass, which arrived beautifully presented, arranged around half an avocado, was pronounced very light, with a lovely taste of dill to round it off. We had been given a very good selection of varying Italian breads, and I had to stop myself from gorging on too much to keep space for the next course which had been separated into three menu categories, paste e risi, pesci, and carni.

I absolutely love pasta but managed to steer away from being predictable and not choosing it. Had I had my arm twisted I would have been spoilt for choice with penne, spaghetti, ravioli and pappardelle filled with the fresh crab tomato and samphire, duck and wild mushroom or spring onions and tiger prawns, all around the £8.00 mark.

For fish lovers, the prices were a bit on the high side, about double the pasta prices, but with sautéed king scallops, pan fried seabass and Tiger prawns, expensive ingredients equals expensive prices I guess. The meat courses were a little less expensive and again there was plenty of interesting choice, from roasted breast of Barbary duck with apple stuffed red onions to venison casserole with crushed potatoes, onions and smoked Italian bacon. My companion had chosen beef, which came pepper crusted and sliced, nicely pink and tender with a hint of char grilled flavour about it. He said it had a lovely taste of spiciness and was full of flavour.

We had chosen some sautéed potatoes, buttered spinach and salad to accompany our main courses. I had finally decided on pumpkin risotto with Amarone wine, this arrived looking very pretty with swirls of red Amarone amongst the yellow of the pumpkin, and was really rather good, the addition of the wine giving it a delicious, unusual flavour. The wine list was complex and interesting, but we finally settled on a bottle of Petroso '95, this was 80% Merlot and very soft and velvety.

After a much needed pause, we took our attention to the Dolci selection, (or puddings, if your Italian is non-existent!) There was a warm bitter chocolate tart, a Gran Marnier parfait with mixed berry compote, their version of Rum Baba to mention a few. I played safe on my already expanding waistband and had the delicious selection of home-made sorbets - a quite divine melange of passion fruit and mango. Our other choice was the House speciality, bergamot ice cream, which had a hint of Earl Grey tea in its flavours and a 'taste reminiscent of the sophisticated Orient'! I think my friend had possibly got a little carried away at this point!

We ended with a glass of Banyuls dessert wine, the one that smells of red grape skins and is a little like a Port or Madeira in flavour. Had we had any room left, there was a good selection of cheese to accompany our digestive, including a soft truffle flavoured cheese with baby spinach leaves.

Percen%to is a much needed addition to City dining, a dinner for two with wine would set one back around £90 and is surely set to become a favourite with the financial cognoscenti.

Louise Elgin December 2000

26 Ludgate Hill
London EC4M 7DR
Tel 020 7778-0013

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