What I Would Rather Eat Today

July 30, 2009

32 Great Queen Street

Filed under: Restaurants — MartinH @ 9:58 pm

I’m a sucker for a restaurant-that-doesn’t-look-like-a-restaurant, so 32 Great Queen St (hereafter GQS, my fingers aren’t quite that masochistic) grabbed me from the first time I visited, and continues to do so.

My inaugural meal was some 3 years ago – my firm at the time had our Christmas lunch there – and the first thing that struck me back then was not just that the staff were courteous, but that they were proactively friendly. Some of us had arrived early and, seeing that we’d clearly be in for the long haul (we polished off a handful of pints each before the rest arrived) moved us to a table that we could keep for the rest of the day. I’m as little a fan of table turning as the next guy, but the attention to detail pleasantly surprised me. Needless to say, we spent the rest of the day there, eating, drinking and generally, well, if I’m honest, my memory goes a little fuzzy at this point, so I will say “good times” and let that lie.

Returning 6 months ago, after a far-too-long absence, I noticed, despite being markedly busier, the aura and attention to detail remained. This I found oddly soothing, like a comfy pair of slippers, which is not a metaphor I thought I’d apply to a restaurant! Back again last Monday and, as ever, it was packed, I should’ve made a reservation, at 7:30 on a Monday evening we were sat at the bar.

The bar at GQS is a long, gorgeous stretch of wood, positioned alongside the diners, trying to make the most of the space available in the fairly modest establishment. I’ve always found eating at a bar alters the mood of the meal entirely, one ends up with a different view on everything – the food, drink, other diners, staff, kitchen and dining companions – almost always in a complimentary way – there’s something about smelling your food sizzling in the kitchen, watching it piled up on the plate, and then the *ting* of the service bell to let you know it’ll soon be in your belly that’s just abjectly dribble-inducing.

Enough flowery language, the food:

The menu

The menu

Ordered: 1 Smoked mackarel with pickled goosberries & 1 bresaola with necatrines, followed by roast stuffed saddle of rabbit for 2 and a carafe of their house beaujolais. Might as well do the wine now… I’m very much a fan of beaujolais and the look on my face after the waiter asked me if we wanted it chilled or not was one of, well, not quite love, but certainly kinship. We opted for room-temperature, and it was as good a young, frisky, fruity thing as any I’ve had. GQS proffer their house wines either by the glass, carafe (half-bottle-size) or full bottle, so a nice range if one is feeling a little under the weather, perhaps…

Onto the fodder. The smoked fish was incredible, and nothing like what I expected. If you visualise a fish, chop out the middle 3 inches, pile up some sticky, sweet goosberries and you’ve got a rough idea of what arrived in front of me. It. Was. Gorgeous. The fish, cold, was so intensely smoked the flesh had turned rich, dense and salty, packed full of flavour, a wonderful combination of powerful, simple flavours and a texture I’d never experienced before. Following each mouthful with a pickled gooseberry rounded off the saltiness of the fish wonderfully, the twist in the plot, if you will.

Wine & water

Wine & water

Next was the rabbit. We waited a while for this, I assume the chef was trying to keep the last one for himself, but, when it did arrive, it was more than worth the wait. Chunky slices of smooth gamey flesh, stuffed with what I ascertained were simply mushrooms. Nutty, with a bit of a bite, they complimented the varying textures of the saddle, making for a very tasty mouthful indeed. It was billed as for two. I’d have happily had it to myself, and I wouldn’t care if they forever knew me as “the greedy rabbit lover”. The diamond in the, well, silk, to really torture the metaphor, was a sliver of liver nestling between the slices of saddle. Starkly contrasting in both texture, bite and flavour, rolling it into the superbly soft flesh provided an unexpected surprise, slipping inbetween the soft, supple, silky slices of Bugs Bunny, I mopped up the juices with a buttery Jersey Royal and tried to decide if I wanted pudding.

Bugs bunny...nom

Bugs bunny...nom

…and obviously, I did. We ordered a chocolate pot and a raspberry tart, the latter landing infront of me. This appeared to be closer to a cheesecake than a tart, a lovely light filing with sweet, vibrant raspberries embedded in its tasty depths, a perfect sweet counterpoint to the richness of the rabbit and the earlier mackerel, rounding off the meal wonderfully.

As with the Welly, this is one of my favourite and much-loved restaurants, but it’s good to know that, since my first visit years ago, it’s kept up it’s attitude to provenance, quality and seasonality, and it’s still as popular and delicious as ever.

Details:

32 Great Queen Street
WC2B 5AA

020 7242 0622

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3 Comments »

  1. I can’t believe I STILL haven’t been here. That smoked fish sounds great, I am addicted to eating fruit in savoury dishes at the moment. ADDICTED!

    Comment by Helen — July 31, 2009 @ 9:19 am

  2. Nice touch of the liver with the rabbit. I haven’t been here, but I think I best do soon!

    When it’s just the two of you I quite like sitting at the bar. It seems more fun, and you sometimes build up a rapport with the waiter / barman.

    Comment by Lizzie — August 1, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

  3. They seem to do nice things with rabbit here. Had a really good rabbit terrine a while back. In fact it was ages ago – I must go back

    Comment by Chris — August 4, 2009 @ 4:16 pm


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