First, I must make one major disclosure. I am a Victorianist. I received my Ph.D. in Victorian literature and have spent the better half of my life studying the books, material culture, historical events, and scientific discoveries associated with the Victorian era, roughly defined by the reign of Queen Victoria (1820-1901).
(Gasp. “How could you even think of being capable of providing an impartial review of a restaurant named The Queen Vic?!?)
To put it bluntly, I don’t. The first time I visited the Queen Vic was only a few weeks after it opened, but that didn’t deter me from turning a very critical eye on what I expected to be poor impersonation of a true British gastropub. In other words, I expected (and maybe even wanted) it to suck. Having spent a significant portion of my summers doing research in Great Britain, I had high standards with regards to the authenticity and quality of that venerable eating and drinking establishment known as The English Pub.
The Queen Vic did suck…me in, that is, even from the very first visit when the servers were still a bit nervous and the menu a work in progress. I loved the cozy yet energetic low-lit dining room, the fastidious bartenders, and, most importantly, the selection of slightly stylized versions of traditional British dishes like fish and chips paired with cross-cultural culinary mainstays reflective of colonial influences, such as chicken tikka masala.
Since its opening, the restaurant has expanded and fine-tuned its menu into a lovely cornucopia of inventive appetizers, hearty curries, and down-to-earth dinner platters. Unsurprisingly, the pub has become increasingly popular, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when well-heeled patrons turn out to sip cocktails like the “Till Kingdom Come” (rye, orange bitters, lemon juice, ginger cardamom syrup) and nibble lamb keema pizza and bhajji, deep-fried onion and zucchini fritters dressed with a saffron rouille.
And though some of the fare and the folks at The Queen Vic may seem fancy, there’s something infectiously casual and relaxing about the atmosphere that makes you feel it’s all right, actually, proper to loosen your tie and order the towering Royale with Cheese, whose slightly sweet brioche bun barely contains the stacked beef patty, gruyere, onion rings, and fried egg. It also seems fitting to follow up that artisanal adult beverage you enjoyed at the bar while waiting for your table with a stiff pint of high ABV craft beer and a stick-to-your-bones British specialty, such as shepherd’s pie.
A restaurant that embodies juxtaposition of tradition and innovation, indulgence and restraint, haughty sophistication and winsome simplicity? The culinary embodiment of the Victorian period. I approve.
The Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen
2712 Richmond Houston, TX 77098