The Food and Drink
The ‘Gastro Pub of the Year’ title makes The Queens Arms stand out from Edinburgh’s many other city-centre, pub grub spots. If there is ever hesitation about eating somewhere, you can always rely on an award to give you that little push in the right direction. This was not my first time to The Queens Arms. I had already given the bar a good run for its money, but never looked as far as the food menu. All 3 courses were presented comfortably on 2 sides of A4 which I was pleased to see as I always get far too overwhelmed when I have to scroll through pages and pages of a menu.
The starter section was the most dominant, with some simple yet interesting options. A strong Scottish influence offered North Sea crab, Kinlochleven mussels and Blarliath cheddar cheese; whilst an Asian element brought the Korean sticky beef with homemade Kimchi and toasted peanuts. I went somewhere in the middle and ordered grilled tiger prawns with chorizo and garlic butter. Fully shelled, this was not a dish for a lazy eater. For me, it always takes away any doubt of the seafood not being fresh- so I was happy. The chorizo added a spicy element and together with the garlic it made a tasty little dressing for the bed of rocket beneath. The pan fried chicken livers with confit onions, smoked bacon and toast are another example of their civilised take on standard pub food. The starters were no more than £6- a fair price for the quality and quantity of the appetisers.
From 11-5pm they offer 4 top quality sandwiches which would probably benefit from staying on the menu until a little later in the day. Maintaining their focus on supporting local produce, Ayrshire ham makes an appearance as does Arran mustard and lovingly-baked Scottish loafs. With only 3 signature ‘Queens Arms Classic’ dishes, the main course options were fairly limited. It is however, more of a ‘grab a bite to eat’ type-place, so with that in mind they have a good offering of generously portioned sharing platters. From the specials, I chose the Red Mullet with a tomato, seafood and potato stew. As a stew alone this would have been plenty. Unfortunately, the mullet was overcooked and was not as fresh as its fellow seafood companions. The skin could have done with a little longer in the pan whilst the meat could have come out a bit sooner. Still, their classic dishes seemed to go down well. The burgers were complimented by their own tasty relish and the fish and chips had the ultimate crispy batter.
Dessert was the winner of all three courses. Between us we tried the mocha tart with a walnut praline and a heather honey parfait with roast pineapple and cinnamon. A subtle hint of coffee infused through the chocolate tart, saving it from being overly rich, whilst the pineapple/cinnamon combo spiced up the parfait making it perfectly indulgent.
After the first bottle of merlot, my friend insisted on ordering another…and continued to knock over half her glass. Toppling mine over in the process she successfully covered the entire table in our second bottle and tested the waitress’ attentiveness. Safe to say she passed (it was all a test-had nothing to do with the effects of too much wine). At least we can vouch for there being a great wine menu. All their bottles are around £20 and with more of a focus on beer, whisky and very appealing cocktails, there is something for everyone.
NB They also do a Sunday Roast to share between 2 which, together with the vibe of the place may make a lovely little Sunday.
Service and Atmosphere
In the absence of a notepad and pen our waitress impressively took a mental note of all 4 dining companions choice of starter and main. As a group of fairly fussy eaters – ‘no relish’, ‘cooked rare but not too rare’, blah blah blah- all dishes were brought out perfectly. The strong memory added to the flair of the place, but I always feel nervous when there is no evidence of my order being noted, especially when in a group. Each to their own though. They are a very friendly team and sensed our in-depth conversations so were by no means invasive, just perfectly efficient. For the duration of our visit, all tables were filled and the bar area occupied by various groups enjoying the inviting atmosphere and extensive drinks menu.
Location gets a 10 out of 10. Nestled down in the basement of Frederick Street, The Queen’s Arms provides a certain intimacy and mystic charm. Detached from the chaotic goings-on outside, sitting in the plush red leather seats amongst the bookcases can feel rather sophisticated. With that said, the constant stream of beer and sports can make it just as chaotic inside as out…
A review by Louise Stoddart
After finishing university last summer, I took a year to go travelling and immerse myself in different cultures and cuisines. I am now back in Edinburgh doing some freelance writing, indulging in the Edinburgh foodie scene. My food blog and travel blog are regularly updated and document all of my experiences. Enjoy!