I am more and more a fan of a good Mexican – Casa Morita in Brixton (post to come!) is one of my favourite restaurants anywhere, and I’m always enthusiastic about sampling different ones, ideally authentic little places that are probably slightly rough round the edges but make you feel like you’ve found a hidden gem.
La Perla in Covent Garden is one of those. Long and thin, wedged into Maiden Lane amongst plenty of competition, the first thing you notice is the bar at the front, which on this occasion was absolutely packed with Thursday drinkers. Pushing through to the back there is a small open kitchen, and a few tables for dinner, all set up with a bowl of tortilla chips and a deliciously hot salsa. The ideal way to start. Embarrassingly I hoovered all these up almost immediately and they were discreetly replaced before my guest arrived. Brilliant.
A delicious pear and vanilla margharita kicked things off. I usually find tequila too harsh for a cocktail but the vanilla balanced it perfectly and was a great start.
We decided to go with four small plates to share, which was more than enough. Big juicy prawns were served in a spicy tequila and tomato sauce with salad and tortillas, baked pork shoulder falls apart and is heavenly with the salsa verde. Stuffed, fried jalapenos were hot with lots of crunch and an even hotter chipotle mayo.
La Perla’s chicken wings are something else – I’m not normally a fan of fiddly bones with a tiny bit of meat but these are fat and juicy, and full of hot, smoky flavour from the marinade. Again, the tomartillo verde cream was spectacular. Sauces are definitely a high point, they’re all strong and lively, and set off the dishes perfectly.
The bill came to £35ish for 2 (only one cocktail each though) and we were stuffed. I do think £1.50 for an extra teeny pot of sour cream is a bit stingy, like charging for ketchup, but a minor point. A great choice for pre-theatre as service is quick, and probably great any other time to be honest. A potential new favourite perhaps..?