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