Great Queen Street

Price guide: Mid-range

32 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5AA

Price guide: Mid-range

In Covent Garden © Simon Coppock

By Jenni Muir, your London expert

I write for AA Travel Guides, Time Out. Read more
#26 of 115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.6 out of 5
Food and drink:
3.9
3.9
Ambience:
4
4.0
Service:
3.5
3.5
Location:
4.7
4.7
Value for money:
3.5
3.5
Recommended for:
Foodies, People watching, Relaxation, Romance

Expert review of Great Queen Street

A laid-back restaurant that serves superb modern British food.

Great Queen Street invariably ranks highly on the Time Out website's 'most viewed restaurants' list and is beloved by many Londoners for its handy location near Covent Garden, lively atmosphere and unfussy British food. Last time I went, there were three of us food critics in there, all spending our own money (which says a lot). However a quick debrief revealed the kitchen had some hits and misses.

Food and drink: 

Follows modern British pioneer [node: 172143] in serving big-flavoured, often neglected ingredients and cuts of meat in thoughtful, uncomplicated combinations. Seasonality is important, which means the menu changes regularly and dramatically, but expect something along the lines of brawn and ham hock terrine, arbroath smokie with cream and chives, skate with cucumber and tarragon butter or pigeon with oakleaf, snails and bacon. Feeling less adventurous? There are usually great versions of familiar dishes too: rib of Hereford beef with chips and béarnaise sauce, perhaps. To finish, cheese or puds such as rhubarb and meringue sundae.

There’s a punchy winelist, but connoisseurs be warned: wine here is always served in a little tumbler, not a formal glass. And there’s often some kind of fizzy seasonal aperitif (elderflower prosecco or similar).

Ambience: 

For such a highly regarded restaurant, this is a surprisingly informal place - in fact it used to be a pub. Great Queen Street focuses on great food and a convivial atmosphere rather than napkins folded into swans and silver teaspoons, but it can get very noisy. It's the perfect place to catch up with friends if you all have loud voices.

Service: 

Knowledgeable and easy-going, the staff are friendly without becoming overfamiliar.

Location: 

It’s right opposite the dramatically overblown, 1920s art deco Freemasons’ Hall, close to Covent Garden and the Drury Lane theatres, but sufficiently removed from the main throng of tourists to remain pleasant.

Price advice: 

The menu isn’t divided into starters and mains: the notably cheaper dishes (£4-£6) are ‘starter’-sized, the more expensive (£12-£15) are the size of a traditional ‘main’. Light eaters could opt for two small plates. Expect to pay around £25 a head without drinks or service for three normal courses, but you could easily eat for £12 if you're happy just having smaller dishes.

Tables to book: 

There are a couple of tables on the pavement under the awning, but I’d always opt for either of the inside tables up against the open external windows, where you get great people-watching (especially when the Freemasons are arriving for a lodge meeting) without feeling too exposed to the road.

Other useful branches: 

The same owner runs two revered pubs along similar foodie lines: the famous Eagle on Farringdon Road (often sited as London's first gastropub), and the Anchor and Hope on The Cut near Waterloo. Neither take bookings.

More information on Great Queen Street:

Price guide:
Mid-range
Type:
Bar, Restaurant
Food:
British, Traditional
Address:
32 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5AA
Telephone:
020 7242 0622
Serves:
Lunch, Dinner
Opening times:
Mon-Sat noon-2:30pm, 6-10:30pm; Sun noon-3pm. The downstairs bar is open Tue-Sat 5-11pm.
Accepts Credit Cards:
Yes
Reservations:
Essential at peak times

Have you been to Great Queen Street? Would you recommended it?