Editor's note: this restaurant closed on July 12th 2019.
Great Queen Street has a long, narrow dining room with a bar down one side, a wooden floor and remarkably murky lighting. The cooking is consciously simple, with the chef/owner Tom Norrington-Davies having been a pioneer of gastropub cooking at The Eagle in Farringdon from 1998-2003, and later at the Anchor and Hope. The intentionally simple British dishes are priced at £5.80 to £8 for starters, £12 to £14.80 for main courses with vegetables extra at £3.80 and £4 to £6 for desserts.
The wine list was printed out on one page, starting at just £13.50, and has unusually moderate mark-up levels for central london.The entirely European choices include Rias Baixas Albarino 2010 at priced at £31 for a wine you can buy in the shops for £10, Pascal Cotat Sancerre 2009 at £50 for a wine that costs £23 retail, and Chassagne Montrachet Les Vergers Genot- Boulangers 2007 was a£71 for a wine that costs £33. For some reason they serve the wine in beakers (the shape of a wine glass matters; you want a tulip shape to concentrate the aroma of the wine), but eventually brought some proper wine glasses, though only after persistent requests. Bread was from St John Bread and Wine, and was good quality sourdough (15/20).
Crab on toast (13/20) was about as simple a starter as one could get, but the crab was fresh and the toast was fine; this isn’t haute cuisine, but that is not the idea (13/20). Slip soles were deep fried. I found it odd that they were fried whole, so that the customer had to do the filleting of a fish covered in batter, but the fish itself was fresh enough and the batter was quite good (14/20). New potatoes on the side were, however, distinctly overcooked (11/20).
Custard tart with “boozy apricots” was a nicely made dessert, the pasty good and the custard filling well balanced (14/20). However “poor knights of Windsor and salty rhubarb”, an old recipe with a bread pudding base with egg, sugar and milk was not a success, the base rather an unbalanced collection of flavours, though the rhubarb compote was pleasant enough (barely 11/20).
With such simple food there is nowhere to hide if things go wrong, but it is clear that ingredients are generally good here. The bill for two with some wine was £62 a head for lunch, and for me this was the main issue. The food element of my meal cost £31, which is more than the price of a set lunch at several Michelin-starred London restaurants. In the evening these prices would not seem too bad, and the wine list has fair mark-ups, but it is hard to see this as a bargain for lunch.