Great Queen Street
32 Great Queen Street
London WC2B 5AA
Reservations: +44 (0)20 7242 0622
Our 2-course lunch with wine cost approximately £25/person (starters from £4-7, mains from £10-14, desserts from £4-6)
Note: this is a joint review done in tandem with fellow food blogger Craig Linton of London Food Detective
A Meeting of Minds…and Food of Course!
Laissez Fare: I had been looking forward to meeting fellow food blogger Craig Linton (website: London Food Detective, twitter: @craigdlinton) for a few weeks after I invited him to meet up for lunch a while back. Luckily, I wasn’t too nervous as I had already met another food blogger a few months back for lunch (see a post about that meal here). Although it is always a bit disconcerting meeting someone you’ve emailed and tweeted with but never met in the flesh, I had the sneaking suspicion that we were going to get on, given our seemingly similar attitudes towards restaurants and food, which are of course the two most important things in the world (Mrs. LF is going to kill me if she reads this).
So, in the middle of our two places of work, Great Queen Street (GQS) awaited. The little sister of some British gourmets’ favourite (and I cringe as I write the word) ‘gastropub’, GQS has no real name, no website, and no gimmicks. It is all simple wood and dim lighting inside, with informal but fairly knowledgeable staff. Like so many London restaurants today (St John and Bocca di Lupo spring to mind), the daily menu is presented on a loose sheet of paper, inferring that the menu changes daily and is probably more or less seasonal. And GQS checked all those boxes. The menu was quite traditionally British, and the simple, hearty fare sounded good to me as it had been a rather long and cold walk to get there.
Unsurprisingly, I arrived on time, and was shown to a little square table for two, where my blind, male food blogger date was to join me. It was all a bit weird, but luckily I had seen a photo of him online so more or less knew what to look for. A bit over-anxious, I waved haphazardly to the next dude through the door based on just the faint outline of his face, who luckily happened to be the man himself. Phew.
After a long and enjoyable getting-to-know-you chat, we were scouring the menus like to men on a mission, trying to make wise selections in the presence of the seasoned foodie across the table. Decisions made, we continued with a very engaging and pleasant discussion, until the thing that united us finally arrived. Grub time.
Craig Linton: Although I’ve been blogging on and off for nearly five years it is only in the last six months or so that I’ve been writing up my thoughts on restaurants I’ve visited.
In that time I’ve found a whole new world of people who share my passion for eating out and good food.
One of the blogs I’ve got subscribed in my RSS feed is Laissez Fare and I always enjoy reading his in-depth reviews. We’ve been to a few of the same places and seem to have had similar experiences (see for example our thoughts on Le Gavroche here and here) and so I was delighted when he got in touch to see if I fancied meeting up for lunch.
After establishing we both work fairly close to each other we settled on Great Queen Street, Holborn, the sister restaurant to gastropub favourite the Anchor & Hope.
Now this is the first time I’ve ever met up with someone I’ve chatted to online and the occasion almost had a sense of a blind date to it. Would LF be the friendly, helpful, chatty guy his online persona gives off or would he turn out to be some sort of foodie psycho? I’m very pleased to report that it is the former, though whether the feeling is mutual you’ll have to check!
Anyway, we hit it off straight away and had a good chat before we got down to the serious business of ordering our food. Great Queen Street is all about seasonal, hearty food and the menu reflects this with dishes like slowly braised mutton and pressed ox tongue.
After a bit of deliberation we decided the desserts sounded better than the starters, so we elected to go for a main and dessert.
I went for devilled Hereford Beef and LF chose the special of room temperature slices of Old Spot pork with crab-apple jelly. We also shared a side of greens.
Getting Down to Bi’ness
Laissez Fare: Some brown bread and butter had arrived, so we both had a small piece of it. It was pretty average and there’s nothing much more to say about it. I now eagerly awaited my main. 5/10.
I had heard a lot about Old Spot pork but had never knowingly tried it, so despite some reservations about a room temperature dish (that’s how they serve it) on a cold November day, I went for it. Luckily, I was not disappointed. It was a very simple dish with three main components. The pork was sliced to a medium thickness and the circles of fat were left in tack around the rim. It definitely had a unique full, round, mouth filling flavor that I hadn’t experienced before. It was surprisingly interesting and had me going back for more, especially when combined with the tangy yet slightly sweet and in-season crab-apple jelly. Because the side of greens we ordered was so delicious with its naughty, slightly creamy mustard sauce, which had a nice streak of acidity, I sort of ignored the little salad that came on my plate. This was a shame, because when I tasted it as an afterthought, I found it was actually quite good and it would have been a nice little accompaniment to the meat and jelly. Overall, then, a simple and accomplished dish. 8/10.
I had ordered a glass of Beaujolais to go with my pork, thinking a soft, easy-drinking fruity wine would marry well with the flavors. It was brought out in a little ridged tumbler (like a small water glass you get in a bistro), as was Craig’s Portuguese red, which I thought was taking the minimalism a tad too far. It’s okay to serve wine on tap into a glass like that (like a place I went to in Venice once called Da Marisa), and Beaujolais after all is a very casual wine drunk with simple food in France, but I like my wine to breathe a bit and think a normal little wine glass would have been better. Rants aside, the wine did what I hoped it would and was a nice sipping partner for my late Old Spotted friend.
It’s worth noting that before tasting my own dish, I was quite jealous of Craig’s main course just on the looks. It reminded me of the hearty beef stroganoff my mom used to make us when I was a teenager. Luckily, he didn’t think I was a complete freak when I asked if he wanted to taste some of my dish, and even offered up a bit of his beef. The meat itself was very soft and tender, having been stewed for a long time, and the sauce it was bathing in was not bad at all. If I had to label it, I’d say it was sort of a European beef curry sauce, with its richness being supported and enhanced by a nice underlying spice (the ‘devil’ bit, I supposed) that ruminated and lingered in the mouth for a good while. I didn’t taste the rice or the egg, but the bit of meat and sauce I did have was very satisfying indeed. 7/10.
Craig Linton: The mains arrived pretty quickly and both looked good, so I was thankful when LF asked if I wanted to try some of his pork. Now my girlfriend found it hilarious when I told her that I was sharing food with a bloke I’d just met, but surely it makes sense for two people who love food to try each others dishes?
My beef just melted in the mouth and the ‘devil’ in the title came with the accompanying stroganoff style sauce that had a satisfying curry kick to it and lifted the dish beyond a standard stew. It was served with rice, half a boiled egg (not quite sure why) and some chopped gherkins, which gave a fresh, crunchy, acidic contrast to the beef that I really enjoyed.
I’m not normally a huge fan of cold pork as I find it can be quite dry, but this was moist and full of flavour. I haven’t had crab-apple jelly for years and my memories of it are from school and I was surprised at how sweet it was. I thought it worked well with the pork and made for a decent main dish.
Special mention needs to go to the greens we ordered as a side dish, which we believed to be black cabbage (kale). They were well-cooked and retained a bit of crunch and had a creamy mustard sauce that I thought really elevated them above the ordinary. Very good indeed.
Laissez Fare: When the desserts arrived, I thought I’d definitely ‘won’. Oh, what, you haven’t noticed my competitive streak? 🙂
Unfortunately, just as I learned at my other recent food blogger lunch, looks can definitely be deceiving. There was nothing wrong with my bitter chocolate terrine with chestnut ice cream. The cake itself was, dense, smooth and full of nice dark chocolate flavor. I guess it was just a bit one-dimensional for my taste. The side of chestnut cream worked well and had little chunks of chestnut which paired nicely with the chocolate. It wasn’t a memorable dessert though, and I definitely had reason to be jealous this time. 6/10.
My companion’s dessert was head and tails better than mine (yes, he did let me have a bite). It was a gorgeous pile of thick creamy white chocolate whipped creamy looking stuff, with a thick syrupy sauce of bittersweet oranges (and orange sections too) sprinkled with a bit of praline. The citrus cut right through the cream and made for a simple but sublime combination. I loved it and wished we had ordered two. Alas, I made my peace and tried to hide my disappointment by quickly scoffing down the rest of my okay dessert. 8/10.
Craig Linton: I’d have happily ordered four out of five of the desserts and after a bit of deliberation I went for white chocolate pudding, oranges and praline. On the waiter’s advice LF went for the bitter chocolate terrine with chestnut ice cream.
I often get dessert jealously, but with a certain sense of smugness I can say that I definitely chose the better dessert!
The white chocolate pudding was very good. It had the consistency of thick whipped cream, but with a rich white chocolate flavour. The oranges had been cut into slices and been gently cooked so they had just started to caramelise and worked really well with the white chocolate.
There was nothing wrong with LF’s chocolate terrine, but it wasn’t anything special either.
Laissez Fare: I think Great Queen Street has a lot going for it. It’s paired down, simple, seasonal and hearty food was good on this occasion and I’ll definitely be back as it’s walking distance from work. I thought that £25/person for two courses plus wine was fair enough as I left full, happy and contented. But, as is usually the case, what really made the meal was the company, which in this case made for a fun, relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable two hours.
Craig Linton: Overall, a highly enjoyable two hour, two course lunch and I would definitely go back to Great Queen Street. I recommended it to my boss when I returned to the office and will hopefully get him to take me on our next lunchtime meeting.
Really enjoyed my first lunch with a fellow blogger and fingers crossed we’ll do it again.
Tips if You’re Eating with a Fellow Blogger for the First Time
Craig Linton: Make sure you’ve read their recent blog posts.
– Decide if you’re going to review the place individually, together or at all.
– Know what the person you’re meeting looks like, so you don’t look slightly crazy by asking the other single diners in the restaurant if they are the person you are meant to be meeting.
– Choose who is going to take the photos and then share them after. Compare embarrassing stories of partners/friends/restaurant staff getting annoyed at you insisting photographing everything.
– Despite funny looks from other diners, it is perfectly acceptable to request to try the other person’s food.
Laissez Fare: I couldn’t have said it better myself! 🙂
Wine: nice little selection, but please serve in a proper glass!
For more about my rating scale, click here.
*Note: I have dined at Great Queen Street once and it was for lunch.*