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Tucked in between the unassuming area of Great Portland Street and Warren Street lies the gastropub The Queen’s Head & Artichoke. We had booked this place not because of reputation but due to the fact that it was easy for us both to get too considering our fellow dinner was leaving from Euston at 10pm.
We walked into the pub which was jam packed full of after work drinkers that spilled onto the path and main road, they were a loud but not too rowdy, though still it was rather annoying having to squeeze past them to get to the bar to find our reservation.
As stated the pub was rather busy and in the centre sat an old fashioned bar that took up most of the back wall. The pub had an old fashioned aging quality typical of the trendy gastropub’s that are popping up in and around London, however this place felt like it hadn’t been planned or designed this way – it really was an old fashioned London pub. The fact that it had not been designed like this almost went against it as much as in its favour. It looked a little too tired and worn, but still at least it was authentic.
We were led to our table, 30% of the one roomed pub was dedicated to food and it was hard to see where the line between the dining room and the crowded bar ended; to be honest we don’t think anyone including the owners knew this either. We were placed on our miniscule wooden table that was against a wall with a wooden shelf that was too low and got in the way. There was little room on the table so it was hard to juggle the menu, wine menu, and water with our plates and napkins in the way. The menu was a paper print out that had clearly been used on numerous occasions throughout the week.
That leads us nicely on to the menu, the menu was unusually laid out; a mixture of tapas and traditional main courses and starters. It was as if the chef had weighed up the option of going for the more fashionable tapas style fusion menu such as the like of Boca Di Lupo and Duck Soup but just couldn’t bare himself to be torn away from the past. Now don’t get us wrong we like the old traditional courses just as much as the communal sharing tapas menus but when the menu is hard to decipher as to what really is a starter, sharer or main course then it gets rather hard work. In the end we ordered a starter of Devon crab with side salad and bruschetta and our fellow diner ordered two tapas dishes of mushrooms and beetroot and crème fraiche dressing. Before we go on we do have to say we were with the hard work diner who only likes ‘the plainest’ of foods yet the two things on the menu she could eat were not on the menu; the above she nibbled and ate the rest. We have to say with all our ranting about the design and style of the menu, the food that was available sounded appetising, gastropub in style; simple, English and hearty. The starter of crab was delicious and not too over dressed with sauces that can often and mask the delicious meaty flavour. The brushette was warm and had been grilled with garlic and olive oil. The mushrooms were not watery or over cooked but meaty and plump and the beetroot was incredibly tasty with the lemon cutting through the rich crème fraiche.
At this point we knocked over our glass of Pinot Noir as the small table which was overwhelmed by the huge wooden shelf running along the side of the wall constrained our arms to use any gestures that even tittered on the dramatic or energetic. Needless to say the rest of the bread and beetroot was rather boozy after that.
Finally our plates were cleared away (we had to keep subtly trying to catch the waiters eye while still trying to look interested as our fellow diner talked – which is embarrassing for both sides you have to admit). For the main course we ordered butternut squash filled with wild rice and lamb served with spring greens and lentils. Our lamb was tender and still pink; just how we like it. The butternut squash however was still a bit tough and needed longer to roast, however it was seasoned well.
For dessert we ordered a blackberry and apple crumble that came out served with thick homemade custard. This was delicious and a real sweet treat. The food was cleared away by numerous waiters who didn’t really seem to care about your dining experience but rather ‘getting the job done’. There was a lack of emotion, character and homeliness that you would associate with good gastro’s.
This place needs the love and thought that has gone into the menu design and kitchen going into the decor, table arrangements and service. We thought the food was generally at a high standard and there was ample choice but when it came to the cramped dining area, loud atmosphere, dated decor and efficient service it just let this place down. Some parts of the evening were of high quality yet others just prickly and hard to accept; as a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls give The Queen’s Head & Artichoke:
Food Atmosphere Service