Saturday, 3 April 2010

Great Queen Street Restaurant – Pie Heaven

Where else do you head to in Covent Garden on a wet, windy, dark, cold Tuesday night? Well, anywhere really that is warm, but in Covent Garden with it’s so so restaurants mainly catering to the tourist trade. Head up onto Great Queen street and find an unsigned restaurant and there you will find great British cooking.
We’ve eaten here on several occasions after it opened, but travelling for nearly a year and a half over the last 2 years has meant we had not been here for a while.
Thankfully it was just the same as when we last left it. The décor is still the same, although different sketches now adorn the walls. Those dark walls and low lighting add to the intimacy of the place.
The menu is still as enticing as it used to be, and thankfully the food is as delicious as it was on our last visit.
The thing I love about this place is that you are still able to just walk in and get a table. There is no “Oh my god, you never booked”. It’s either “just let me get a table ready for you,” or “can you wait a few minutes at the bar, and I’ll get you in a tick”. Good service is a thing hard to find in London’s restaurants and they train them well here.
We were not particularly hungry and I could not have faced a two or three course meal. All I wanted was a nice bottle of red and something warm and substantial to energise me on this dreary night.
The last time we were here, they had a beef and kidney pie (for two) with a suet pastry. It was a huge pie, but that suet crust, even though it was pretty heavy was a delight to eat and mixed with the steak and kidney was a new take on that oh so delicious pudding.
Amazingly this time the pies were back on. This time it was just a steak pie. I’m pretty sure I never looked at anything else on the menu, apart from the rib of beef, chips and béarnaise sauce, which tempting, very tempting never came close to a good pie.
I love the fact that they tell you, even though I knew the pie would take around 30 minutes to cook. Fantastic. Time to soak in some wine and munch on their breads, and chat about all and sundry when you are waiting for good food. I always get into a better mood when I know everything is being done properly.
The pie came. It was as big as I remember it. I think it would do 3 people, after starters of course. But these two hungry weary travellers tucked straight in. The huge cubes of beef were as tender as, and the gravy made up of those fabulous juices was divine. The inclusion of a marrowbone instead of a piece of ceramic to create a bit of space so it doesn’t explode. The marrow was soon scooped out and eaten.
The only sides needed for a pie of this quality were some greens. Potatoes would have been a bit too much, and the added a tad of colour to this dark dish.
The crust, not suet this time, was flaky and nicely cooked. Crunchy even. Perfect. Fantastic meal on a crappy night.
After “service charges” seem to be excluded from the bills these days. I love surprises when I return off trips. I have been working on a way of tipping to meet my experience in the restaurant that night.
So, for me 10% is a standard tip. Split 50/50 between the quality of the dish I receive and the service and décor etc of the dining area. Most times I have forgotten about this since we have been back. I tried it in New York, and I think they look at 10% as a bit of an insult. I hear 18% is normal there. So I added to the stereotype of the tight Englishman. But in the Great Queen Street. I could find no fault. Food, service, ambience was all perfect. We will return.
Great Queen Street on Urbanspoon

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