1. Pearly Queen
    Charlie McKay
  2. Pearly Queen
    Charlie McKay
  3. Pearly Queen
    Charlie McKay
  4. Pearly Queen
    Charlie McKay
  5. Pearly Queen
    Charlie McKay
  6. Pearly Queen
    Charlie McKay
  7. Pearly Queen
    Charlie McKay
  • Restaurants | Seafood
  • price 3 of 4
  • Spitalfields
  • Recommended

Review

Pearly Queen

3 out of 5 stars

A Spitalfields oyster bar from Cornerstone's Tom Brown.

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Time Out says

Tom Brown, the head chef and owner of Pearly Queen, a new seafood restaurant in Shoreditch, is staring at me. Well, not the actual Tom Brown, but a purple-hued, post-impressionist portrait of him that sits high up on the wall near the bar. Every time I glance to my left, there he is; a slightly disapproving look in his eye, awaiting my reaction to each dish. A neon sign that says ‘the world is yours’ illuminates the room. It’s the sort of interior design you can imagine the wayward son of a wealthy despot to have; part megalomania, part Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

Tom Brown is the man behind Cornerstone, the Michelin-starred Hackney Wick seafood favourite. Pearly Queen features some hits from it, but the menu is largely original, with a specific focus on oysters, which come both fresh and interfered with. 

Of the dressed oysters the star was the pate with champagne jelly, transporting you joyfully to the French riviera

The bread, sourdough, arrived upright, in the shape of a dorsal fin. It was accompanied by a seaweed butter which, had it not had a dusting of desiccated green kelp on the top, drawing the mind to imagine a flavour of the ocean, would not make it past the Trades Description Act. Similarly, slivers of ‘hake ham’, dry cured slices of hake served with olive oil, were decidedly un-fishy, which for fish is quite the feat.

When eating an English oyster right now, you feel slightly like you’re taking your life into your own hands. Deluging our island’s waters with unimaginable levels of sewage makes slurping an homegrown oyster something akin to eating blowfish prepared by a chef with cataracts. Mercifully, the ones at Pearly Queen are about as un-English as it gets, coming from the much saner waters of Killaugh, Ireland. And they are excellent; juicy, flavoursome, completed with a touch of lime. Of the dressed oysters the star was the pate with champagne jelly, transporting you joyfully to the French riviera. Still good, if a little dry, was the fried oyster with Frank’s Red Hot-style buffalo sauce.

Things continued well with curried mussels, hefty wads of mollusc in a fragrant lemongrass infused gravy, served with a very cute little garlic flatbread. Here, though, is where things take a turn for the timid.

A skewer of monkfish with a fried monkfish tail arrived with an XO sauce. It has a lovely barbequed char, though the XO was a little too sweet. Put your nose in a decent jar of XO sauce and it will singe your eyelashes with preserved fish smell – no such luck here.

Crab on sweet cake was smothered in a dashi hollandaise, which was very moreish, though much of the crab flavour was masked by the hollandaise. The cuttlefish lasagne, a dish which will no doubt be ordered by curious and bemused diners, is decorated with shaved parmesan and accompanied by brilliantly red tomato sauce. The problem is it’s a little cold, and the sauce perhaps slightly too reminiscent of Heinz ravioli.

Dessert was Guinness ice cream, which I’m told takes tens of bottles of the black stuff to make, but doesn’t have as much of a Guinness punch as you might like.

And that’s the overarching issue with Pearly Queen as it is – it lacks punch. When you go to a seafood restaurant you want to leave feeling like a briny, weather-beaten trawlerman. The fact is that, aside from the fresh oysters, the food at Pearly Queen just isn’t fishy enough. There’s a potentially great restaurant hidden in here somewhere, but it’ll need to be a bit more shark than goldfish if it wants to reach those heights. 

The vibe Blade Runner meets Billingsgate.

The food Quirked-up white fish and delicious fresh oysters.

The drink A worryingly drinkable Martini that intriguingly includes picpoul, garnished with a little pickled onion.

Time Out tip Order the oysters and keep ordering them. 

Details

Address
44 Commercial St
London
E1 6LT
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