Queen and Beaver
The Queen and Beaver makes me want to crack a dirty joke. It's the name, and be honest... you know what I'm talking about. Luckily, I was born to English parents, so a stiff upper lip comes easily over these crooked British teeth. I want to laugh my arse off, but as the reproduction poster on the pub's second floor reminds the dutiful, I will Keep Calm and Carry On.
The dĂŠcor in the Queen and Beaver Public House (aka "pub") is certainly conducive to such an exercise: deep wood, plush carpets, ceramic-edged fireplaces, a sideboard filled with gilt china and reproduction portraits of Queens Elizabeth I and II invite diners to relax and stay awhile. A menu filled with heavy traditional dishes all but guarantees they will accept the invitation.
My mate and I settle into this plush environs determined to carry out a most indelicate gorging, and prepared to stuff ourselves with an excess of British delicacies. We order Scotched Egg, Soccer Pie, Cider and Fennel Steamed Mussels and Chips, Duck and Potato Pie, and Sticky Toffee Pudding.
Since most of choices are from the bar menu, our meal arrives speedily, served without fuss on a delightful mismatch of gold-leaf china that could've come straight from my grandma's pantry. Scotched Egg, a boiled egg wrapped in minced chorizo, battered and deep fried, is an artery-clogging tribute to the British culinary ethic, and sets the tone for the rest of the meal: food that is comfortable, creative and hearty, but stays within carefully proscribed boundaries: rich--yes, healthy--no.
Next we sample the mussels. Infused with delicate fennel flavour, they ride the perfect tension between soft and springy. They're a solid offering, but as my chum glibly states: mussels are mussels. Our favourite part of this dish is the house-made ketchup served aside the fries: a hint of curry adds imperialistic panache to the normally pedestrian sauce.
But the ketchup doesn't keep our attention long, as we are lured by the draw of the pretty pies. We immediately determine that this is where the Queen and Beaver earns its royal epithet. The Soccer Pie is chunks of fatty steak and rich gravy in buttery tartlet, a perfect blend of savoury meat and flaky crust. The Duck and Potato pie is similarly savoury, pairing layers of tender smoked duck with creamy scalloped potatoes in a slightly over-baked crust. It's served with a side of rocket and cornichon (British for arugula and gerkins). The sharp green sides are our meal's only nod to vegetation, and we welcome the contrast.
Despite the richness of our dishes, the serving sizes are small, and we find ourselves with unexpected belly room. We order a Sticky Toffee Pudding to fill the gap. Softy, sticky, sweet and served with a rapidly melting dollop of homemade vanilla ice-cream, this tiny pudding piques our tastebuds, but doesn't quite fill the extra stomach space.
The Queen and Beaver offers solid traditional British treats and a beautiful dining space, but prices reflect the dĂŠcor and real estate value of the location as much as the quality of ingredients and flavour of the food. Diners seeking a romantic meat-and-potatoes date, or politicians looking for a luxurious, but unpretentious meeting place (we run into Mayor Miller and an entourage of suits on the way out) would be well served by this pub, but bargain hunters will be best off sticking to the extensive beer menu, and ordering a specialty cask beer ($7) instead.
Scotched Egg: $4
Cider and Fennel Steamed Mussels and Chips: $12
Soccer Pie: $11
Duck and Potato Pie: $15
Sticky Toffee Pudding: $8