32 Great Queen Street
Well, that comprehensively obliterated the memory of S&M. Both restaurants ostensibly believe in the same thing – great British cooking – but whereas for S&M that means microwaving some mushy peas, for 32GQS it means sand eels, pig’s cheek and pickled rhubarb.
Since I am a decadent, cosmopolitan metrosexual I often start dinner with a glass of prosecco or, in this case, a glass of rhubarb and prosecco fizz. Nom nom nom. My mum’s house red, on the other hand, was “a bit rough” but followed up by a much better carafe of Douro. I failed to match her unit for unit with a half of Hullabaloo which, despite its lovely gingery colour, was surprisingly bitter for a cooper ale and a bottle of Stiegl, an Austrian lager that tastes a bit like Amstel. And then another rhubarb and prosecco fizz for pudding. Nom. N just had water as she felt her kidneys were in need of pampering.
For some reason we were feeling all continental and decided to share four starters between the three of us. Or sort of shared. The cutest of these was a soft-boiled duck egg in a little eggcup with a duck on it and five asparagus soldier. After burning my fingers on this I regressed to five and let my mum cut the top off. Then I wolfed down sticky, orange goodness and left the albumen for her. She, in turn, turned her nose up at sand eels, leaving me and the missus to tear through these. “They’re like whitebait” our lovely waiter helpful informed and so they were, albeit slightly milder, and they disappeared into a nice big splodge of aioli and thence into our gobs. Then I declined smoked mackerel and, judging by their comments, I was right to as it was clearly well fucking strong. I did try a bit of the pickled rhubarb it came with – a kind of British take on the way Scandanavians serve herring – and that was lovely. But then rhubarb always is. Finally, there was a plate of bell onions, tapanade and babaganoush which I would have been disappointed with as an individual starter because it is really more of a sharing snack. So it was perfect in these circumstances and they are very liberal with their bread (take note, other restaurants) so we had something to scoop it up with.
As you might have noticed the ingredients are little out of the ordinary, half way towards the nose to tail philosphy of somewhere like St John. This was even more noticeable – and exciting – with the mains, although there were quite a few options, including all the specials, that we unfortunately had to discard out of hand because they were for sharing (a good concept in the abstract, I reckon). Instead, N had skate wing in nettle and anchovy butter and said it was the nicest piece of fish she’d ever eaten. My mum had kid ragout which was a gigantic mound but when I tried a mouthful was amazingly delicate and zinging with mint. As for me, I went decadent again with scallops, peas and pig’s cheek. It was pretty much all my favourite things on a plate but as I forced in the final mouthful of delicious, gelatinous cheek I thought I might have overdosed on indulgence. I remember reading a question once about how cooking at a restaurant differed from cooking at home. The answer? More butter and salt that you can possibly imagine. In fact, if I had any criticism of 32GQS it would be that they really don’t hold back on the seasoning; our salt and pepper remained untouched and neither of my companions usually hold back.
£40 a head, all in, and that is a bloody bargain.