The Perkin Reveller

The Wharf at The Tower of London, London, EC3N 4AB, United Kingdom

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Editor's note: In 2018 this restaurant became Sargeant's Mess.

This rather odd little restaurant is part of the Tower of London estate, situated on the wharf just by the east gate of the Tower itself, just under the north side of Tower Bridge. The name is a reference to Chaucer’s The Cook’s Tale, which features an Apprentice Chef whose nickname was Perkin Reveller; Chaucer, a multi-talented cove, oversaw the original construction of the Wharf where the restaurant now stands, in his role as Clerk of King’s Works between 1389 and 1391.

It is an all-day place, open for breakfast through to dinner. Chef Andrew Donovan unsurprisingly cooks British food here, and the cooking is a lot more ambitious than one might easily imagine in such a tourist spot. Andrew was formerly sous chef of Michelin-starred Chapter One from 2006 to 2011, then head chef at the Aviator Hotel in Farnborough before moving here, having formerly trained at The Greenhouse and Aubergine.

There is an outdoor terrace with wooden banqueting tables. There was a set lunch at £19 for three course; from the a la carte starters were £5.50 - £12, main courses £12.50 to £28, with vegetables extra at £3.50 and desserts £6. The wine list started at £17 and had wines such as Montesc Rioja 2001 at  £19.50 for a wine you can find in the high street for around £8, Bergerie Pic St Loup 2012 at £33 for a wine that retails at £14 and Girardin Vielle Vignes 2008 at £78 for a wine that will set you back £42 in a shop.

Bread was apparently made in-house, which is appropriate given that the Miller’s Tale is another of Chaucer’s works. Sadly the white and brown slices that I tried seemed very ordinary (12/20). A starter of scallops, pork belly and pea puree had overcooked pork belly, peas that had little flavour, and scallops with their coral still attached that had very little inherent sweetness, and were slightly overcooked (10/20). Better was decent smoked eel croquette with horseradish, potatoes and pickled beetroot, with a crispy coating and reasonable eel flavour coming through (12/20). Poached wood pigeon with pickled pear came with ham and celeriac, but suffered from an oversweet dressing (11/20).

Crab, chill and saffron linguine had adequate pasta, but not a great deal of crab and had a rather watery sauce (11/20). Barnsley chop with herb salsa came cooked longer than the medium-rare that was requested, though it had decent favour (11/20). Best was bream, mussels, spinach and saffron cream, with properly cooked fish and a pleasant cream and herb sauce (13/20).

Coffee was decent. Service was pleasant enough and quite efficient, though the waitress lost track of who ordered which starter. The bill, with just tap water to drink, came to £37 a head for two courses from the a la carte. If you had dessert and a modest bottle of wine then a typical bill might be in the region of £50 or so a head. The Perkin Reveller is situated firmly in tourist land next to the Tower of London, and certainly the level of ambition of the cooking is higher than one might expect from such a spot. Yet overall the food at this lunch seemed merely workmanlike, a touch expensive for the quality that appeared. 

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