Victoria Purcell heads for The Perry Vale, the brand-new bistro in Forest Hill

When the first mouthful elicits a passionate ‘oh my God’, you know it must be special.

‘Good steak?’ I asked. ‘It’s amazing,’ replied the boyfriend. Normally I won’t let him order a steak when we’re ‘restaurant reviewing’, because I just don’t have the vocabulary for steaks. There’s a chargrilled picanha on the menu too – a little known fillet of Brazilian beef. ‘Can’t you order that instead?’ I said. ‘It sounds more exotic.’

Too exotic, came his reply, so I capitulated, and thank goodness I did. He ordered the chargrilled ribeye, cooked medium, with Cafe de Paris butter. It was pink, juicy and downright fantastic, especially dipped into that wickedly good butter.

The Perry Vale is a contemporary bistro delivering a little je ne sais quoi to Forest Hill. Delivered by the team behind the hugely popular Crooked Well in Camberwell, the place has sumptuous banquettes, causal wooden sharing benches and bi-folding doors that open the whole place up to the summer sun. It’s located on Perry Vale – ‘the other side of the tracks’ – so you can sit out front safely tucked away from the South Circular.

Even the bread offered on being seated is really good. From Paul Rhodes Bakery in Greenwich, it’s plump full of apricots, figs and rosemary. The modern British menu is creative and has flair, but also sports a good-old cheeseburger. The wine list is plentiful and helpfully broken down into characteristics such as ‘light and crisp’ and ‘steely and mineral’. The house wines, though, are wonderful.

We started with baked chorizo for him and the cured sea trout with duck egg, gherkin and dill yoghurt for me. The lightness of my starter paved the way for a heavier main – rabbit leg rubbed with pommery mustard, which give the meat a good kick, served with Savoy cabbage, shallot stock, hazelnuts (which add a wonderful crunch, but do require a little chasing around the plate) and red grapes.

It’s a lovely dish, but something was missing. Perhaps a bed of mash potato might help bring leg and broth together? The side of chips were perfect – not too thick, not too thin, skins on, and amazing dipped into that Cafe de Paris butter.

For dessert I had the gooseberry, almond and thyme cake with ginger Chantilly. Have you ever heard of such a lovely thing? Served warm, it’s most, light and fabulous.

The Knowledge

Three courses for two, around £60

Good for… 
A relaxed dinner with family or friends or cocktails on a sunny evening

What to eat… 
The steak is phenomenal

31 Perry Vale, Forest Hill SE23 2AR; 020 8291 0432;

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