Our schedules called for a day of studying for E & me, so we met for our long overdue lunch at spot that was conveniently situated between our respective libraries. At 12.15 pm, the restaurant was buzzing and almost completely packed, but a quick scan by one of the waiters turned up a teensy table by the side that could just about sit two.
We'd heard that Great Queen Street was a gastropub, but it's fairly obvious to anyone who's eaten there that the focus is almost entirely on the food. There's the same gastropub mentality of well-cooked local produce of the season, but drinks don't get the same level of focus. You can get a decent glass of wine to go with your meal at a decent price, but the guys behind the bar seemed much more involved in slicing up loaves of sourdough than pulling a pint in the time we were there.
Speaking of the sourdough, it was warm when it reached our table, with a good crispy crust and fluffy, chewy interior. Good stuff.
Because the both of us were interested in the same things on the menu, we decided to get those items to share, but it didn't feel quite enough. The waiters know the menu in and out even though it rotates daily and ours recommended the pork croquette. This was on the daily specials board at the far end of the restaurant and we'd missed it entirely, but it sounded interesting enough so we went for it. When it came we quickly divvied up the two pieces with a little mustard drizzled over, as well as the red sauerkraut.
Very often, when you order a croquette the insides are mainly full of mashed potato and just a smidgen of whatever was advertised (I had a ham croquette once where I never did find the ham.), so imagine our delight when we cut the pork croquette open to find that it was chock full of pulled pork, with hardly a bit of potato in sight. The breaded exterior was crisp and evenly golden-brown all over, and the mustard relatively mild, giving only a hint of piquancy. The pork itself was juicy and full of body, the kind of thing you eat with great gusto. Though there wasn't much sauerkraut on the plate, what we did get added a nice tartness to the overall flavour.
We ended up playing table tetris as more things arrived. The table was tiny, and with cutlery, bread, two individual plates, cups of water and wine and the bowls of salt and pepper, even after clearing the serving dish that the pork croquettes came on, there wasn't much space left after the washing bowl for the mussels came by. Things got shifted around and stacked to make more room, and there was a lot of "Oh crap, hold this while I move this around." and "Okay, let's clear this quickly before this other thing threatens to fall off the table."
There was no space for an extra plate to put the mussel shells, so we finished our croquettes before we moved on to the shellfish. The mussels were really plump and fresh, and so good with the diced onions that littered the plate. Also, there wasn't an empty shell in sight. It was a good thing we kept that last slice of sourdough, because we split it and used the bread to mop up all the good, garlicky sauce we couldn't get with our spoons.
We split a plate of greens as well. Not the most generous portion around, but good, crisp vegetables with a simple oil-vinegar dressing. Also, if the plate had been any bigger we probably wouldn't have had any space to put it. As it was, with the empty shells taking up our plates by the time it reached us, we had to shovel the vegetables directly into our mouths.
Once everything was cleared, there was still some space left for dessert, so we opted for the chocolate tart. The tart crust was nothing to shout about but the dark chocolate filling more than made up for it.
32 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AA