I found myself walking by Pearl Brasserie when I was in town doing some shopping and as I’d not eaten yet I decided to take the chance to have lunch there as I’d been meaning to visit for quite a while now. It seemed like I was the first customer of the day so getting a table wasn’t a problem and the maitre d’ noticing I was on my own offered to get me today’s paper which I thought was a very nice touch.
The waiter brought over the menu which was split into two sections, one a lunch deal (it also doubled as the early bird) of two courses for €22 and the other an a la carte option comprising more choices, these obviously being more expensive; I ended up choosing a dish from either section so couldn’t avail of the deal although my selection from the set menu only cost €8.
Before my meal proper began I was given an appetizer of a ham hock terrine which was quite unexpected, I thought the waiter had made a mistake and was bringing the wrong starter because the portion was far bigger than an amuse bouche. Either way, it was not only a pleasant surprise but very good too with slices of apple, sauce gribichea and a deep fried cube of what I think may have been pig’s trotter .
Next up was something I had actually ordered: a salad of smoked duck ‘prosciutto’, violas, walnuts and a verjus dressing. I’d never had charcuterie made from duck before but it was excellent, a beautiful creamy layer of fat on the outside melted as you ate and coated your tongue and the edible flowers made for an impressive presentation.
My main course of pigeon, black truffle mousseline and foie gras was the reason why I chose not to go for the set deal and I didn’t regret my decision. This is the sort of ludicrously rich French food that’s becoming a bit unfashionable due to the likes of Noma and their spartan ethos but I’ve always liked it and see no reason why the two can’t co-exist. The meat was served two ways: the breast being pan-fried and the legs braised and then made into an exquisite tasting croquette; the heaviness of the foie gras and mousseline was offset by the lean game so there was still some restraint in the combination. The obvious drawback here is the cost of these ingredients and at €30 it was the most expensive dish on the menu by a fair distance (pretty much all the other mains were under €22).
For dessert the waiter recommended the chocolate assiette but unfortunately it takes at least fifteen minutes to prepare and as I was in a hurry I went with the pistachio macaroon, white chocolate cream and raspberry sorbet instead. I didn’t really get much flavour of pistachios but the cream and sorbet were excellent especially as white chocolate complements raspberries so well.
The selection of wine by the glass is extensive, with most of the whites being under €9 and most of the reds over €10. To accompany the duck I had the Walnut Block Collectables, Marlborough, Pinot Noir (€11) which was lovely, the fruit and soft tannins working well with the smokey prosciutto. I moved onto the St. Georges-St Emilion, Chateau Troquart 2002 (€13) for my pigeon and this was also of very good quality; I can imagine if it were from Saint-Emilion proper it would command a much higher price. Helpfully, the menu gives suggested pairings for each dessert so I deferred to the sommelier and chose the Maury, Domaine des Schistes (€9); it was a brilliant match that really emphasised the raspberries and handled the sweetness of the white chocolate perfectly.
Service was outstanding, very friendly and attentive throughout although some of this attention may have been down to how quiet it was but I’m not going to complain. The final bill of €81 was definitely expensive but everything I ordered was from the top end of the price range, you could eat lunch here for a lot less if you wanted to.