Great Queen Street is somewhere I've wanted to visit for a while. I love a good gastropub, mainly due to the lack of formality and absence of pretentious gastronomic flourish. Just serious food, cooked well in a bustling atmosphere. When it comes to eating out, I guess I'm a bit of a peasant, and If I'm honest - I enjoy the rough and ready atmosphere of a good gastropub over a formal restaurant any day. But obviously there are exceptions (Pierre Koffmann I'm looking at you).
Great Queen Street and it's sister restaurant The Anchor and Hope are widely considered to be two of the best examples of gastropubs in London - and I couldn't wait for a chance to finally eat at one of them.
Last week the chance finally came. The occasion? The GF's birthday, I would be taking her there for dinner to celebrate.
But, one of those dilemma's that only foodbloggers (or foodies) seem to encounter reared its ugly head.
I'd asked among my fellow bloggers on Twitter, what in their opinion was a dish worth ordering. Instantly the answer was spat back at me with almost obscene haste by @Tehbus and @scandilicous "The Rib of Beef".
More people proceeded to chip in with photos of the dish and personal recollections of its awesomeness... I was sold.....deal done, I would order the rib of beef, it was going to be so right....but wait a minute, whats this?....it's £48 and it's for two people.
Not only was I taking the the GF to a restaurant that I'd picked because I wanted to go there 'on her birthday'! I was then going to have to talk her into ordering a dish that I wanted to eat.
Lesser men may have balked at the challenge this presented. But smiling fondly at the memory at the look on her face as she enjoyed unwrapping her birthday presents of the Rambo trilogy on DVD and the Dewalt Hammer Drill, I knew I could pull this off.
In the event, it proved less troublesome than I'd envisaged to talk her round to my way of thinking....I only had to throw one childish tantrum, laying on the floor screaming, kicking and flailing arms. (I expected to have to do this at least three times - result). She agreed. The rib of beef for two it was to be.
So, arriving early on a miserable, freezing cold rainy evening after work - we made our way into the moodily but rather atmospherically lit Great Queen Street and proceeded downstairs to the bar for a quick drink.
Its nice to see that some of the wines are available by the Carafe, and also nice to see wine tumblers (a point of contention amongst some) personally, I love drinking wine out of a tumbler - it's rough and ready and reminds me of the trattorias in Rome where the only real choice is 'red' or 'white'. We ordered a nice easy drinking Sancerre by the carafe and waited for our our table. I have to say, the bar downstairs, when it had started to fill up really is a amiable place to while away sometime. The chairs are comfortable, the dark walls and dim lighting are easy on the eye and relaxing.
Stomping back upstairs, less steady than when we went down - we take our seats at the table. The dining room is now packed to the rafters, buzzing with chat, laughter and noise.
We look through the menu.... this is a dangerous time. The GF might see something else that will ruin the whole rib of beef arrangement. I realise that I need to crush any dissent quickly and ruthlessly. The pheasant pie for two is mentioned, and is received with a withering look from me that would blister paint...It works.
Rib is ordered, and we're informed it's a 40 min wait for this dish and that it comes rare.
We decide to forgo starters as I've been informed the Rib of Beef is allegedly a monster main, and we want to leave room. We while away the time chatting, drinking more Sancerre from tumblers and ogling the dishes being served at nearby tables - A whole Sea bass catches the eye - as does the pheasant pie which looks delicious.
Soon enough, our main arrives. Rib of Beef with Bearnaise sauce and chips, we also order some steamed greens as a nod to some vague notion of healthiness, but really - its all about the meat.
It looks beautiful, presented with the actual rib, and thick charred but pink rare slices of beef, there's a bowl containing enough Bearnaise to drown a child in and of course another bowl full of chips.
The next 30 mins or so are a perfect orgy of meat consumption, gnawing and chewing, the rib is fantastic. I love Bearnaise and I've never eaten so much in my life.... I can understand now why we were advised not to order starters, this is a serious meat-fest....the GF gives up, she cant eat the last slice on her plate. I'm made of sterner stuff, smearing the last of the Bearnaise onto a chip....and finishing off the slice of beef on the GF's plate.
But it's a struggle.
I'm stuffed silly - after just one dish, but it was incredible. I Loved it.
Despite both of us being fit to bursting, we decide to order a dessert to share. (unheard of - believe me, I always manage a dessert). Steamed quince and almond pudding, which arrives quickly, is perfectly nice, light, tasty and well made.
Finishing up with coffee's, I settle up, leaving to plunge back out into the cold and damp December evening. Looking at the pub from the outside, it strikes me how nondescript it is....in the dark, you could easily walk past and not notice it. Which is a shame, because I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I've had for ages, the food was lovely- but it's more than that. The whole place has such a bustling atmosphere alive with people eating fantastic food. It's seriously good and seriously atmospheric, its hard to put my finger on it exactly - but something is very right at Great Queen Street. I'll be returning the first chance I get.
Great Queen Street
32 Great Queen St.
Telephone: 0207 242 0622