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The Perseverance, Holborn WC1

It looks as though Louise Elgin didn't have to try hard at all...

 There are some areas of our great metropolis of London that somehow remain unknown even to a born and bred Londoner like myself. As I wandered down Lamb's Conduit Street last night, passing wonderful and quirky shops and interesting looking restaurants, I was reminded of exclusive Primrose Hill where I have always aspired to live. Although only a five minute walk from soulless Holborn, this villagey atmosphere seemed a world away.

Local residents must be thanking their lucky stars (and their house prices!) for the likes of The Perseverance. Once a rough Irish pub, complete with regular drunken brawls at closing time, it has now been transformed into a welcoming haven of good food, good wine and general bon homie. Which is to be expected from the likes of Richard McLellan, who has transferred his skills from time spent in the kitchens of Aubergine and The Mirabelle to form his first joint venture with fellow chef Billy Drew.

The night we had chosen for our visit was one of those London specials. Vertical, lashing rain with a dash of howling wind thrown in for good measure. The perfect excuse to snuggle up in a traditional pub with some good food and wine.

The dining room was upstairs, away from the very convivial surroundings of the downstairs pub and we were shown up to the small, elegant, rustic candlelit room.

The menu was fairly short and sweet, with six starters and five main courses to choose between. Whilst pondering what to order we began our evening's drinking with a large glass of Graham Beck Sauvignon Blanc (£4.50). The initial flavour was a bit uninteresting but it improved with airing into a very quaffable choice.

After much deliberation, and changing of minds, (well it's a girl's prerogative after all!) I commenced with the herb and scallop risotto, £6.50. My guest chose the deep fried mackerel with sweet pepper relish, £6.00. It arrived well presented, the mackerel itself not overcooked "as it so often can be" my guest remarked. The flesh was an appetising white, not grey in colour and a significant but not overbearing flavour in a very light crispy batter. "In perfect equilibrium with the accompaniments". (Perhaps the wine had already gone to my guest's head!)

Meanwhile, my risotto was excellent. The scallops were tender and delicate, the rice slightly bitey, remaining very tasty and fresh. In fact, I'd stick my neck out and say it was cooked to perfection, which is pretty high praise, as we all know risotto requires plenty of skill and attention to detail. Other offerings we were tempted to have chosen from included French onion soup £4.50, or goats cheese mousse with grilled ciabatta, olives, capers and cherry tomatoes £4.50.

With plenty of room for more we moved on to the next course. I had chosen the gilt head seabream with globe artichokes, confit potatoes and red wine sauce, £12.95. The skin was lightly crispy like my guest's mackerel starter with the fish having a firm texture and full of flavour. The cream sauce mingling well with the slices globe artichoke and confit potatoes. Very good, if a little rich. My ever enthusiastic guest had chosen lamb rump with sweetbreads £13.50. He said the meat was superbly tender, the flavours marrying well with the sweetbreads, and the garlic and shallot confit. " A balanced selection of flavours which kept the digestive juices flowing in full flood", he remarked. As a side order we had an excellent bowl of chips. They arrived dark, piping hot and full flavoured. On the waitresses suggestion we also ordered some mashed potato which was buttery and delicious, real comfort food! 

Sticking to wine by the glass, my guest tried a large glass of Italian Zinfandel, £4.20. He said that "Although there was a hint of fruit it was severely out of breath". Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Yes, I think he was now in the process of getting truly carried away! The rest of the wine list varied around the £26.00 a bottle mark, but there were prices to suit all budgets starting from £10.90 a bottle. Other main course choices included Daube of pork with cep casserole, £11.50 and homemade herb gnocchi with courgettes and mussels, £10.50. Not a great deal on the menu for veggies it has to be said! 

For pudding there were five to choose from, all priced at £4.95. We shared a coffee pannacotta. For me this was the highlight of the meal. Served cleverly as if a cappuccino, it was light as a feather, in taste and texture. Absolutely first class. The other choices all looked to heavy for us but included sticky toffee and banana pudding with brandy snaps and vanilla rice pudding with caramelised oranges. I've been told that Sunday lunch downstairs in the main part of the pub is not to be missed. It's served between 1pm - 4.30pm (last orders, booking advisable as very popular with the locals). The thought of spending a relaxed afternoon in a homely atmosphere, with all the Sunday papers, in the company of an amicable, laid back crowd whilst eating superb traditional English food sounds the perfect antidote to the British weather.

Louise Elgin, March 2002

The Perseverance,
63 Lamb's Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB 

Tel: 020 7405  8278

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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