Perkin Reveller, The Wharf at the Tower of London, London EC3

 

The restaurants on the south side of the Thames at Tower Bridge have been bustling for 20 years, pulling in tourists like trawler nets snaring cod. The north side, by contrast, hasn't seized a similar opportunity, despite the presence of the tourist nirvana that is the Tower. The land just beside the Tower is owned by the Historic Royal Palaces, who leased it for ages to a café. Their catering partner, Ampersand, has now summoned a creative agency and a catering consultancy called Truffle Hunting; between them they've launched Perkin Reveller, tucked into the elbow formed by Tower and Bridge.

The name comes from Chaucer. Taking their cue from the fact that the great Geoffrey had a hand in building Tower Wharf in 1390, the new owners have plundered The Canterbury Tales, looking for a name. The Knight's Tale? Too stiff. The Merchant's Tale? Too sexy ("Gan liften up her smocke and inne he throng…"). The Miller's Tale? Too much farting. Eventually they chose the slightest of the tales, the unfinished, 58-line Cook's Tale, because of its main character, an apprentice chef called Perkin, who's a sort of medieval headbanger. "At every wedding party he would sing and dance… when there was any procession in Cheapside he would spring from the shop towards it… and he would gather to him a crew of his own sort, to dance and sing and make such fun."

Does Perkin sound a bit of a trial to you? Does he sound like the bloke outside your window at 4am, singing "Teenage Dirtbag" with his zany chums? In that case, Perkin Reveller may not delight you. It's pretty much designed for a Medieval Fayre. Many of the tables are banquet-size, long enough to accommodate a small army of varlets and mead-swilling serfs celebrating Lammastide with earthenware beermugs…

It's not really as crass as that. There's a cosy bar area that resembles a chapel with original stone pillars, white tiles, flickering wall-sconces, zinc tables and squashy cushions. In the main dining room, the old features have been overlaid with wood panelling and crammed with stripped-pine furniture. In the evening, when it's almost empty, it looks a bit… staff refectory. Very much not a couples place. The outside terrace is wonderful, though, with the wall of the Tower beside you, the vast, blue-lit majesty of the bridge to one side, and the grotesque spike of the Shard obscured by trees. I can imagine visitors and Londoners alike fighting to get a table out there. They even provide you with rugs, and a sailor's chest of games to keep you amused.

The food and drink are much better than you'd expect in such a touristy haven. Dominic the cocktail waiter does a fabulous vodka martini, and, for the ladies, a Seasonal Shrub: your date takes a spoonful of marinated cherry-and-blackcurrant jam on her tongue, then has a gulp of gin-and-lemon juice. It's very bracing. The menu is – what did you expect? – very English Heritage, but full of nice touches. Queen scallops are given a peck on their white cheeks by some lovely chorizo. A salad of ham hock with English peas benefited from the ham being served warm in a soft croquette. Smoked eel fishcake with crispy bacon and endive lettuce filled the mouth with flavour and added thick tranches of actual smoked eel as a contrast to the cake.

Forbidden, by reviewers' rules, from trying one of the Sharing Plates (I yearned for the rib of beef with bone marrow, red wine sauce and Béarnaise), I had slow-cooked lamb with fennel, artichoke, tomato and basil. It came as a troika of lamb-iness: roast leg, curiously blanched but wondrously succulent, a circlet of slow-roasted breast and a little envelope of shoulder. Roasted fennel is a fine dance partner for lamb, but the butch aromas of breast and shoulder overwhelmed everything else. A side order of 'broccoli with boiled-egg dressing' flattered to deceive; instead of bits of egg, it was just flecks of boiled albumen. Angie's Cornish fish stew had been constructed with generosity and love: seabass, black bream, monkfish, cockles, crab and clams, cooked with saffron potatoes in what tasted like lobster bisque from a jar, rather than fish stock (but there's no harm in that).

Puddings seem limited to the nursery: milk chocolate and hazelnut mousse, egg custard tart, stuff like that. My alarmingly pink strawberry trifle featured no sherry, and jelly instead of custard – pah! Trifle for four-year-olds. Eton Mess was better, delivering a good proportion of fruit to meringue.

I was relieved the food is good at Perkin Reveller. So much money and effort have been spent on bringing the place to life in this prime location, they could easily have cut corners and served catering-firm nosh. But chef Andrew Donovan deals in stylish and satisfying cooking that will please the grog-quaffing revellers on the terrace for years to come, or my name's not Wyllarde the Wobegonde.

Perkin Reveller, The Wharf at the Tower of London, London EC3 (020-3166 6949)

Around £100 for two, with wine

Food ****
Ambiance (inside) **
Ambiance (outside) *****
Service ****

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary. All tips and service charge go to the staff'

Side orders: A slice of history

Amberley Castle

This luxury hotel in Sussex has a two-course £27.50 table d'hôte menu featuring dishes such as butter-roasted cod with fennel purée and thermidor sauce.

Near Arundel, West Sussex (01798 831992)

Witchery by the Castle

The cuisine in this upmarket restaurant showcases Scottish ingredients: try the monkfish (£27) with an Asian broth of noodles, shitake mushrooms and pink ginger.

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh (0131 225 5613)

Chatsworth Farm Shop

Try a Chatsworth burger (£6), washed down with a glass of Bakewell's Peak ale at this on-site eaterie at a stunning stately home.

Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire (01246 565300)

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'