At the Queen & Beaver, it looks like we're entering an absolutely fabulous old home. It's warm and pulsing with energy the night we arrive. A classy little intimate bar area is in front of the dining room and there is a rollicking, more pub-ish bar on the second floor.
English cuisine is a bit of an oxymoron to many. The notion of quality British food has always been tainted by the "boarding school" stodge that passed for food, giving the Brits a bad rep. Add the usual suspects in pub grub and
it looks as if there is no such thing as creativity or quality on the English table. But that of course, is not true.
Jamieson Kerr, proprietor, set out to put the whole oxymoron thing to rest. A noted interest in cuisine from across the pond sent Kerr researching with his chefs to revive classics in the British culinary tradition and to excellent effect.
After a couple of pints, we're moved to our table in a very noisily, packed dining room. There are two menus to choose from; the bar menu and the pub menu, so just to see how the pub half lives here, we try the Fish Cakes with Tartar Sauce ($8) and the Welsh Rabbit ($6). The cakes are quite generous, and you can see that there are two kinds of fish mixed in with the potato filling. They're a little bland but the luscious, house made tartar sauce fixes that. The Welsh Rabbit is something I fondly remember from my childhood. It comes unadorned here. Just a slab of crusty bread with a brownish-orange cheddar melted on top, so I'm guessing this is a Worchestershire-spiked cheddar. (I always thought Welsh Rabbit was my own private nickname, instead of Welsh Rarebit, because my Mum always steamed cauliflower and covered it with cheese sauce on toast. Hence, the rabbit, as it looked like cottontails to me!).
For the pub menu, Chef Andrew Carter turns out a fabulous Rabbit & Potato Pie ($17) with a mix of greens on the side. It's a towering wedge, and between the tender rabbit and the creamy, scalloped potato mixture, it still manages to be reasonably light. The Rainbow Trout & Sorrel with Fennel-Potato ($19) is so beautifully presented, the silvery sheen of the fish topping the potato mix. It's perfectly done, once flipped over, and the guest is very impressed. Servers know their wine pairings, and rave about the Tempranillo I pick for the bunny pie. They're spot on too.
Finally, no English meal or menu would be complete without a "pudding" of some description. Traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding ($8) is a dense, dark, date and raisin cake drenched in a caramel- toffee sauce with a little scoop of ice cream. Mmmmnnn... absolutely fabulous, darling, to quote Patsy, my favourite star from the British hit show of the same name.
Price: $60 and up for dinner
Wheelchair Access: No
Surprise, Surprise: The pub menu is stylish and sophisticated