What can you tell us about Parsons?
It's the next restaurant from the people behind much-loved Covent Garden wine bar/restaurant The 10 Cases. So you can expect a good bottle of wine here - but a much different menu.
So what's the focus this time?
This time it's all about seafood - with the main menu of starters and sides paired with daily specials delivered straight from the boat and shellfish of the day too.
Where is it?
If you've been to The Ten Cases, it's just across the same road and down a bit from that - i.e. very close. If you're heading there from the tube, then Covent Garden station is the best bet.
And where should we go for a drink first?
Given the closeness to The 10 Cases - that's clearly your best spot, as long as you can grab a table. Personally, on the night we visited, we popped into the Cafe Murano Pastifico on the other side of Covent Garden, which is a lovely little oasis if you fancy a quick glass in the area. Over that way, Sibarita is a good option too and closer is Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels at Seven Dials.
How big is it?
You can book, which is a godsend as the place is on the small side - seating around 20-25 we'd guess. You can choose either a high spot, or standard table. You are packed in, so it's not a place to go for a private chat - but prepare to have your ordering influenced by whatever your neighbour is having. The stools by the window and the small bar can't be booked, so there's always the chance of grabbing a space if you walk in.
And what should we start by ordering?
We'll start with the bit we - ahem - almost missed when we started. That's the section of snacks written in pretty small type along the top of the menu. That covers all manner of delights - some of which we'll have to make a return visit to try, like the brown crab pissaladière which is definitely on the list and the salt cod fritters.
The clear winner from what we chose from that section were the potted shrimp croquettes, which are every bit as wonderful as you'd hoped they would be. And a special mention for the bread selection - primarily for some particularly great soda bread and seaweed butter that we started using as a dip (yes, that good).
So we should order snacks AND starters?
Yes, even if like us, you go a bit crazy on the snack front - there are some dishes you can't miss on the starters. Primarily for us, there was the octopus with pork fat potatoes, paprika and parsley oil (£10.50). We're partial to a bit of octopus at the best of times, but pair it with some perfectly roasted potatoes and we're completely won over.
The black rice with squid and cauliflower aioli (£9.50) also comes recommended - but it maybe a little on the big side if you're saving yourself for the lobster mash (more of that in a bit).
You should also cast your eye upwards at the shellfish section - there are pics of all the choices on the tiles by the ceiling, with prices and options that are available - for example, cold prawns with prawn mayo for £10.
How about the main event?
The main dishes are on drawn on the mirror - which lists the specials for the day. On our visit, that included gurnard fillet (£17), trout fillet (£17), whole sea bream (£24) and a fish pie (£14). We opted for the latter two - the last because we find it near impossible to avoid ordering a fish pie if it's on the menu - and this was a class example. Not to mention that you can opt to have it with or without a hard boiled egg chucked into the mix (with, of course).
And then there's the whole sea bream. A good seafood restaurant ultimately proves its worth on a dish like this - something which showcases whether or not they can cook a fish very well on its own. And Parsons came up trumps with a huge sea bream, beautifully done and matched with samphire and fennel.
And sides, of course?
Even though one of us had ordered the fish pie, we also had to go for the lobster mash, because, of course, you have to order that. As long as you're going for one of the other fish dishes and haven't gone too carb-heavy earlier in the meal, it's an easy recommendation (although at £12, one of the pricier options - fries for £4 might just do).
Well, as you might have noted from the above, we managed to eat quite a lot by this point. So much so that we must regrettably admit that we didn't manage to make it to desserts. But the list looks very interesting, mainly as it's a mix of a key dessert - apple tarte fine (£6) - and some savoury dishes. These include a Welsh rarebit (£5), cheese and even a bavette steak sandwich. Frankly, any meal that could end with a steak sandwich has to get our recommendation.
To drink - wine, of course?
Of course. Given the background of the team, you can be sure of a few interesting bottles on the list. We ran into Zeren Wilson in the restaurant, so immediately cornered him for some recommendations. Both the Santorini (Assyrtiko, Estate Argyros 2016 - £32 for a carafe) and the German Weisseburgunder, Wittman (£28 a carafe) were excellent suggestions.
Everything's available by the glass (125ml) or carafe (500ml) starting at £4/£16/£24 for a Portuguese vinho verde by Mario Lopes.
With this and The Oystermen, Covent Garden is now blessed with two really great seafood spots. Good food, good wine and a buzzing atmosphere all night long - it's an instant hit. We just have to make sure to leave room for dessert next time...
More about Parsons
Where is it? 39 Endell St, London WC2H 9BA
How to book: Visit their website.