Unbranded, unfussy, uncomplicated – Great Queen Street is the thoroughbred Gastropub on the far side of Covent Garden. Of Arabian proportions, Great Queen Street has been studded by the Anchor and Hope and let run with staff from the Easton and St John.
Between undecorated blood red walls diners sit at rustic tables, on simple chairs with standard, uniform tableware. Towards the back of the room a long bar fronts onto the kitchen where I can only imagine chefs are preparing food with one of five utensils and serving into one of three bowl types.
I'm not sure what the textbook Gastropub description is. For sure the Wikipedia page must include Great Queen Street. Menus are presented on a single sheet of A4 with 15 choices arranged by price. Paralleled with the surrounding simplicity they're all directly stated traditional English; game terrine, steak pie (for two, £30), rabbit stew… etc. We opt for a meat double bill with steak tartae to start and lamb shoulder as a main. Our waiter suggests that there are three surplus shanks in the kitchen available as a one-off for only a few pounds more (£28). We nod emphatically. Actually, I can recall a couple of times before when this has similarly happened in the Anchor – an effective marketing strategy.
The tartae was moderate (bland – go for the terrine instead) but the shanks divine. The meat was not just falling off the bone but diving off into the pool of superb, rich oily soup waiting for a knob of bread to soak it up. Served with a healthy bowl of potato gratin this was far more than enough for two and we had to call in for air support before ordering desert. The caramel crème is unmissable.
I heard earlier that in the UK we spend £8b/year in 27,000 restaurants. Good hearty English fayre has to be the most rewarding and patriotic spending of those pennies although I'm torn. I'm sure mothers around the country can do better - mine certainly can.
Great Queen Street is a welcome addition to the gastro-offering around London. It represents all the good things about English pub food with all the bad things taken out and intentionally un-replaced. There’s a premium to pay and one must wonder why… but not for long before returning for more.
32 Great Queen St
020 7242 0622