An anglophile reading Katharine Shilcutt's visit to the Queen Vic Pub on an empty stomach is a dangerous thing.
This past week I tried a few items off the Queen Vic's bill o' fare and for the most part agree with Katharine's sentiments. The Queen Vic is a true gastropub with a rich menu and some very well-constructed cocktails. Although I was disappointed to find happy hour wasn't officially happening the night I visited (the server told me the kitchen and bar were still working out the kinks), I was more than happy to try one of their drink specials, The Sidecar ($9).
At my window table I watched out the corner of my eye as the bartender portioned out my drink ingredients with the interest and precision of a Renaissance apothecary. The end result was perfectly mixed cocktail with strong orange tones and a frothy body. My only criticism was that the pour seemed about one ounce short, but perhaps I was unconsciously taking large sips. I tend to do that.
Raves about the buck rarebit ($9) led me to choose it for my appetizer. I was similarly pleased by the luscious mixture of creamy yolk and cheddar mornay sauce and enjoyed mopping up every last drop with crumbs of buttery Texas toast.
My main course, the fish and chips ($16), was delightful if only because the Queen Vic managed to add subtle sophisticated touches to a dish that derives much deliciousness from its simplicity. The three thick pieces of fresh halibut, nicely coated with a thick coriander batter, were fried to deep brown perfection. A liberal squeeze of lemon cut the salty factor and provided a good contrast to the garlic yogurt dipping sauce. The hand-cut chips were, as Katharine noted, not particularly crisp, but I tend to like them that way as I believe a tad extra sogginess from oil absorption makes for a better fry.
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Although I enjoyed my experience at the Queen Vic, I'm not sure if I'll ever be a regular. My major criticism with this pub is the same I have for many perfectly satisfying Houston restaurants: the prices are a little too high for food that, while very well constructed, isn't haute cuisine in terms of originality or ingredients. But the Queen Vic looks promising and the service was very good, so perhaps I'll scamper back sooner than I imagine.