Fine dining goes informal at Perilla, Newington Green’s latest culinary success story

Words Hannah Hopkins

Perilla is deceptive in many ways. First, there’s its location, on the corner of an utterly unprepossessing road in Newington Green – the open space straddling the border between Islington and Hackney. Second, there’s the menu – a carefully curated list of no more than six main dishes with ambiguous names like ‘courgettes with pecorino & basil’ which sound utterly simple but are anything but…

Inside, the relaxed space has a distinctly Scandinavian vibe, with large windows that flood the space with light, walls with exposed plaster render and floors adorned with original yellow black terrazzo tiles. The furniture and light fittings are vintage pieces, while tables have been crafted from up-cycled wooden barn doors.

Perilla is the brainchild of Ben Marks and Matt Emmerson. After two acclaimed residencies at Palm 2 in Clapton and Platform 1 in Dulwich last year, they decided to go solo, with the backing of the likes of Martyn Nail, Executive Chef of Claridge’s and Philip Howard, of Elystan Street and previously of The Square.

There are certainly shades of Elystan Street in the dishes, which extract rich, complex flavours from humble ingredients. The aforementioned ‘simple’ courgette dish, for example, is actually chunkily cut vegetables sat atop a rich dark green basil sauce, peppered with roughly chopped hazelnuts and pecorino, and even the seaweed bread that accompanies dinner is brushed with roasted lamb fat and served with whipped butter, elevating it to another level.

Dishes can be shared or kept all to yourself, depending on your preference. We plump for the Provence tomatoes with tangy sheep’s curd and black olive sauce, pistou soup – fresh vegetables in a flavoursome consommé (essentially spring in a bowl) and the roast skate wing with redcurrants and brown butter. Not only are they all exquisitely presented, their flavours are complex and richly layered.

We enjoy our mains with white wine, but there are delicious cocktails too, with a focus on gin from small batch distilleries as well as Perilla’s own infusions, which are visible in jars behind the bar. Expect the likes of Cynar negronis, kumquat-infused gins and homemade lemonades.

By the time dessert arrived the restaurant was abuzz with the sounds of trendy North London types, drawn to Perilla by the chef’s credentials and the aesthetics of the dishes. And our final two plates didn’t disappoint on that front. The set buttermilk with strawberries and woodruff infused custard with fresh almonds and cherries were just the right side of sweet and almost too pretty to eat…almost.

Marks and Emmerson aim to bring fine dining out of the expensive, traditional restaurants and make it accessible, affordable and informal. And with Perilla, they’ve pulled it off with gusto.

1-3 Green Lanes, N16; perilladining.co.uk

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