Last year we sang The 10 Cases’ praises. Now they’ve added a new fish-focused restaurant to their family just a stone’s throw away on the same street – and it is a bundle of joy.
Parsons occupies a rather cramped space. Estate agents might euphemise it as “bijou” or “cosy.” As you walk in you are met by a central trough containing chilled bottles of wine. This immediately tells you that this is a place that takes wine seriously (unsurprising really for the little sister of The 10 Cases – wine is in their DNA). Indeed, Parsons boasts one of the most impressive and eclectic collections of white wines I’ve seen in a while, traversing Iberia, some stunning Chardonnays from France, dry Rieslings from Germany, some esoteric appearances from Lebanon, Greece and South Africa, with a decent handful of light reds and rosés. The selection by the glass is decent too. However, anyone seeking an alcoholic beverage other than wine may be disappointed since these options are unavailable.
When my colleague and I visit one Tuesday evening, we find the service excellent, friendly and conversational, despite a wobbly start with the delivery of the wine (the Viura – a crisp and sprightly 2015 white Rioja – had not been chilled sufficiently but this was quickly rectified). It’s duly noted that they don’t rush us to leave either, despite the late booking on a school night.
The décor may seem a tad clinical with its white tiles, perhaps in an homage to chippies up and down the land, and the standing menu is in the form of a paper mat. Most of the fish dishes of the day are written up in marker pen on the walls and mirrors. The only problem with this is, if you’re not sitting the right way round, you have to crane your neck, risking all kinds of bodily noises and potential injuries. This, combined with the tight squeeze of a table, causes a little discomfort, but this is really where any slight annoyance or disappointment ends.
if you’re not a fan of fish or seafood, Parsons will most assuredly convert you
First up, my colleague’s potted shrimp croquettes arrive. These are perfectly made with just a hint of spice without being overpowering. Meanwhile, my seared mackerel (not torched!) with an orange and fennel salad is a sheer delight – the zingy citrus, aniseedy fennel with the oily fish don’t just blow away the wintry cobwebs with a flash of the Mediterranean, they feel healthy. This dish might even add several years to your life.
Skate wing wouldn’t ordinarily be my first choice of main due to all that cartilage, and so this was a useful test of the kitchen’s cooking skills. Here it is cooked sensitively without drying out and served with endives and lentils. My colleague’s mussels with sun dried tomato and chorizo are devoured with gusto, and we make a note that they reduced the chorizo content as requested (a nice exercise of discretion there). On this occasion we forego the lobster mash (the most expensive side at £12), instead choosing the more humble chips, but even these are a thing of sublime beauty.
I don’t think I’ve been anywhere yet that manages to combine such great fish cookery with good service and at a ruddy decent price
The one solitary sweet is an apple tarte fine. My colleague and I have one of these each (sharing is not caring when it comes to a good tart). All of the other desserts are entirely savoury, including Isle of Mull cheddar, Welsh rarebit and, yes, a steak sandwich. The more sweet-toothed diners out there might be disappointed by the lack of sugary desserts, but you have to admire the swagger of a place that lets you close a meal with a steak frigging sandwich! Muchos kudos.
And then the bill: 3 courses, sides, a decent bottle of Viura, water and service, all came to £62 each. In Covent Garden. Astounding. Order the same at J Sheekey and it would be twice this amount, at least.
London already has some decent fishy eateries, from high-end institutions like Scott’s to the new and quirky London Shell Co, but I don’t think I’ve been anywhere yet that manages to combine such great fish cookery with good service and at a ruddy decent price. It takes a lot for me to be enraptured by fish but Parsons pull it off. Indeed, I would go even further: if you’re not a fan of fish or seafood, Parsons will most assuredly convert you. I think that’s probably the nicest compliment I can pay in my English and reserved way. Oh, and the fact that I have already booked to go back.
The inhabitants of Endell Street are very lucky to have this and The 10 Cases on their doorstep. Damn them.
39 Endell Street
by J A Smith