30 Henrietta St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8NA
Hot on the success of Kitty Fisher’s, Cora Pearl opened in 2018 to a flurry of acclaim and rapture. You might already have heard about the iconic chips or the dreamy ham & cheese toastie, both of which surpass their reputation. Cora Pearl was, like Kitty, a courtesan. And if there
is any lesson that we should learn from her it is this – make your downfall your biggest success. Having been wooed by a cad and not wanting to tumble into
disrepute and grime like other fallen London ladies, Cora (or Emma Crouch as she was more prosaically born) hot-footed it to Paris and became quite the lady in demand. The restaurant too, is much in demand and is a study in decadent elegance. Intimate tables for whispering and furtive gazing. Subtle waiting staff sensibly suggest starting with a coupe of Champagne (every meal should start with a coupe of Champagne in my book). My advice is to eat as many of the smaller plates as possible. Devilled eggs, brown shrimp Ranhöfer, the legendary ham and cheese toastie. Then make a play for the cow’s curd agnolotti and the terracotta-red fish stew redolent of all the lusty shimmer of Marseille, festooned with croutons and clouds of gruyère. Pudding must be the trifle to share. Sneak in early for a pre-theatre special or have a long and luxurious Sunday lunch. Just know this: go once and you won’t be able to stay away – Cora Pearl will have you in her mesmerising clutches forever.
LADY OF THE GRAPES
16 Maiden Ln, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7NJ
The Lady of the Grapes is my favourite new hangout on Maiden Lane. It is where I go with new dates, old flames or when I just want a really decent glass of wine. Let’s face it, sometimes the latter very easily trumps the former two and nowhere more so than this wine bar that champions female wine makers in an industry that has long had ‘male terroir’ written all over the label. Wines are assiduously chosen from small organic, natural or biodynamic vineyards and a heartening 70% of these are made by women. I’ll drink
to that, and then some. There are 15 wines available by the glass and many, many more to explore on the extensive list. Owner Carole Byron and her colleagues are on hand to advise, and the more adventurous are well rewarded. With the wines you should try as much of the charcuterie as you can, including the appropriately named Devil’s Mortar (a fiery nduja-esque riot for the tongue) and the truffled jambon. Then langoustine tails and perhaps a little St. Nectaire.