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Baron’s Court, London W6

Stephen Higginson found an oasis of good tastes!

I have to admit up front that I am not too familiar with the ‘gastro-pub’ vernacular. However, I do wish someone would find a new word .It is beginning to take on hail-fellow-well-met, ‘what’s your poison squire?’, Bernie’s Inn Road House vibrations, where the car park is full of mid-range Mondeos.

Thankfully, none of that is true of The Queens Arms in Barons Court, West London. What would once have been described as a local ‘boozer’, has now been refined somewhat under the watchful eyes of entrepreneurs Tim Brown and Jon Bird – owners of the already successful Freemasons on Wandsworth Common – into a buzzy neighbourhood bar with an upstairs restaurant.

Whilst the downstairs bar area has a relaxed, spacious and ‘cool’ feel, the upstairs restaurant is bright but basic – more spit and sawdust than velvet banquettes - but there is a funky slide-back central roof area, which on the steamy night we visited, was a welcome plus.

The dark wood floors, tables and chairs - almost wilfully unstylish in design - give the restaurant area an already lived-in, familiar feel after only a few weeks of operation. This place is not new, it’s established and working well, is the reassuring mood! A modest oblong slot passes as an open kitchen plus serving hatch, through which is passed a tasty selection of beautifully presented plates of food, all radiating tender loving care, prepared by head chef Paul Foster – ex Ivy and J.Sheekeys – and his team.

Of the five starters on offer, we chose spinach and wild garlic soup with poached duck egg and Speck ham (£5.95) and the seared foie gras on pear and quince tarte tatin (£7.50). The rich green soup was delightfully subtle but a little under seasoned, and the egg was poached to perfection. As for the foie gras - balanced and voluptuous seems to sum it up. So does yumeee!

The generous wines by the glass we chose to accompany the starters were a crisp and intense Privilege de Drouet Sauvignon 2005 with the soup, and a good, solid soft and full Australian Sarantos Shiraz 2003 at £5.40 and £6.50 per glass respectively. The well thought out wine list has a good range with lots of choice in the popular £16 - £24 per bottle bracket.

The starters set a high standard of presentation – ‘10 out of 10’ said my companion – and the mains too, were a pleasure to look at.

Again, five were on offer, and I went for the pan roasted halibut with braised baby gems, gnocchi, pea puree, scallops and Bayonne ham (a very reasonable £12.95), whilst my companion chose an assiette of spring lamb – cannon, shank and cutlet - served with Roquefort tartlet and port jus. (£14.95). We added chips, which came looking just like mother makes, and spring greens to the mix – both fine. All side dishes are £3.50.

The fish was wonderfully cooked – sweet, plump, moist and divine. I would have liked more pea puree and the gem lettuces would have been better replaced by more flavourful spinach or lentils, but that said, the other elements worked perfectly. The plate of lamb was outstanding – all the items were cooked ‘au point’ and the flavours were superb and the Roquefort tart was exquisite. Again, the feel was of high class home cooking – well presented but not flashy, simple but not boring and full of good tastes and textures.

For the fish I chose a Vignabaldo Pinot Grigio Umbria 2005 (£6.50)- light, delicate yet full of flavour, and with the lamb, another Australian (we were in west London!) - a Craneford Barossa Valley Merlot 2005 (£6.00) – mellow but with a refreshing edge.

The puddings all cost £4.95, and from the four offered we were seduced by the bittersweet chocolate velouté with ginger nut biscuit and cinnamon ice cream– excellent, especially the fragrantly infused ice cream - and the strawberry trifle with vanilla sponge and Eton mess. The latter proved to be more like strawberries and cream and a little bland, with the sponge hard to fish out from the bottom of the tall glass. Maybe the name ‘trifle’ was wrong- raising expectations of a varied and richer mix.

In addition to the restaurant menu, The Queens arms has a comprehensive and imaginative bar menu – which can also be eaten upstairs – ranging from mussels in white wine and chicken Caesar salad to lamb and mint burger and pork leg with caramelised onion mash. Prices start at £3.50 and go up to £12.50 for platters to share.

Although the trendy stairwell tends to funnel up noise from vibrant bar below, the restaurant remains a distinct space where conversation is easy and the food a very pleasurable experience. At present it seems to be a local haunt, but as word gets around The Queens Arms will surely enlarge its catchment area – and certainly deserves to do so. Try it whilst you can still bag a table!

The Queens Arms
171 Greyhound Road
London W6 8NL

Tel: 0207 385 3883

Restaurant opening hours Tuesday to Friday 6.30pm -10pm; Saturday 12.30pm – 3.30pm and 6.30pm -10pm.

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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