Chef Tom Brown doesn’t do stuffy.
After all, his Michelin-starred seafood restaurant Cornerstone isn’t a glitzy, white-tableclothed affair in Mayfair. It’s an industrial dining room in Hackney Wick with poured concrete floors and The Smiths belting out the speakers.
And now he’s opened an even more relaxed spot on Commercial Street in Spitalfields; a vibey seafood bar where exquisitely crafted dishes are bathed in a neon glow and a hip-hop soundtrack. With more counter dining than tables, it’s got the feel of a late-night hangout – albeit one with freshly shucked oysters and Champagne, a combination you might describe as ‘literal heaven’.
Pearly Queen sits across two floors of a corner building – upstairs is the buzzier of the two, with counters wrapped around the stairs and the bar, which serves subtle cocktails that have been designed to pair elegantly with the seafood by Three Sheets‘ Max Venning. Downstairs is the main kitchen, with a few more tables tucked into an intimate corner. And the whole place is filled with nods to the sea, from the framed (and pierced) oyster shells, to the table lamps that, after a couple of those cocktails, could pass for jellyfish.
The menu at Pearly Queen allows you to chart your own culinary odyssey: you can pick and choose from snacks, oysters, small plates, large plates and sides. And while you are choosing, get a dish of the hake ‘ham’: melt-in-the-mouth flakes that have been cured in salt, sugar and cider for three weeks.
The oysters, shucked behind the bar, come from Carlingford, Donegal and Pembrokeshire, and are served with a bottle of house-made Scotch Bonnet sauce to pour as liberally as you dare. You can also order them pickled with gherkin and horseradish, and the buffalo oysters – piping hot, crispy-coated and lavished with hot sauce & ranch dressing – are a must-order.
Smalls include slivers of cured cod in a pool of brown butter with shrimp & parsley, like some kind of deliciously unctuous ceviche, and a roasted scallop with coral butter (‘coral’ is another name for roe – so don’t worry, you’re not going to be complicit in recklessly destroying the Great Barrier Reef).
The large plates come in ‘mains’ portions, but back yourself and order both the cuttlefish lasagne, served under a snowdrift of grated parmesan, and the chilli crab. Tender flakes of crab meat are piled on top of toasted milk bread, just beginning to caramelise at the edges, and then drenched in dashi hollandaise. It’s extremely indulgent… and extremely delicious. And if indulgence is what you’re going for, there’s clotted cream mash as a side, or a beautifully charred head of hispi cabbage slicked with crab miso butter.
It all comes with a decently priced wine list, and to finish: a choice of dark chocolate ice cream with Guinness, or sticky toffee madeleines served with big crystals of salt.
In summary? Pearly’s a real gem.
NOTE: Pearly Queen is open now. You can find out more, and make a booking, HERE.
Pearly Queen | 44 Commercial Street, Shoreditch, E1 6LT
Fancy a nightcap? Pop into one of the best bars in Shoreditch