The Queen Vic Gives Pub Food the Royal Treatment
When Adam Stein, executive chef at the newly opened Queen Vic, gets a delivery of hog, he sees a dozen dishes. The 200-pound pigs arrive halved, split nose to tail, and nary a scrap goes unused.
Their heads, hocks and feet go into a brine. Tongues and jowls are set aside for use in pâté. Their bellies get smoked and turned into bacon, whose fat is rendered and mixed into vinaigrette. The meat is ground and used in sausage and pâté, and the loin is turned into thick bacon-like slabs called rashers. Even their skin escapes the trash bin: It gets crisped into cracklins, which are used as a garnish for salads.
All those feats of butchery pay off meaty dividends at the new British gastropub on H Street Northeast. For all the work that goes into the food, the establishment has a low-key vibe that’s just as suited for downing a pint while watching a football game (the kind without helmets, natch) as it is for enjoying a plate of house-made charcuterie.
Owner Ryan Gordon describes the Queen Vic as a labor of love, a tribute to the favorite foods of his Welsh-born wife, Roneeka Bhagotra-Gordon, who is the special-events coordinator at Sonoma. “I just wanted to create a home away from home for her,” Gordon says.
Gordon’s restaurant pedigree includes stints at the neighboring bar, the Pug, where he was an investor as well as an occasional bartender, and Capitol Hill watering holes Lola’s and Molly Malone’s. But the Queen Vic is his baby, and he enlisted Stein to help bring to life his vision of a convivial pub. The name, he notes, isn’t just a homage to the famous monarch, it’s also the name of the watering hole frequented by the characters of the long-running British soap opera “EastEnders.”
It seems he’s hit the mark: The Queen Vic’s interior is welcoming and moody, with low lights from fixtures made from old gas pipes, a salvaged pressed-tin ceiling and wooden tables made from old rafters that workers tore from the restaurant’s upper floor. All evoke an already-broken-in hangout, and a recent night found a group of bikers from Northern Virginia improbably mingling with staffers from nearby offices.
A solid beer list, including about a dozen drafts, features across-the-pond favorites such as Harp, Boddingtons and Guinness.
Other British touches are campy. There’s a bust of the Queen Vic herself perched on the bar, British Invasion-era tunes blasting and an ATM housed in a red-painted closet that mimics the iconic crimson phone booths of London. A “wall of crap” along the upstairs bar invites customers to tack up their best U.K. regalia, and some have complied. There’s a portrait of the bar’s eponymous queen from the gang at the Pug, and Wonderland bar in Petworth donated a framed postcard of Big Ben.
The menu features British standards such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and steak and ale pie. Curry dishes are a nod to the Indian influences in British cookery. But this isn’t the sad, bland pub fare that gave England a bad culinary rap for centuries.
The aforementioned charcuterie plate is an example of Gordon and Stein’s commitment to keeping everything house-made: Vegetables and onions are pickled in-house, foie gras is poached in apple whiskey and headcheese is slow-simmered. Even the mustard is chef-crafted: Stein soaks mustard seeds in Guinness and Newcastle beers, then purees them with vinegar for a tangy condiment that’s a far cry from the standard school-bus-yellow offering.
Such attention to detail extends to the rich “tomato jam” that subs for pedestrian ketchup and the hamburger buns, which are baked in-house.
And despite the cheffy provenance, prices are reasonable. A heaping platter of fish and chips (with a side of oh-so-British mushy peas) is $11, and the sharable charcuterie platter is $25.
For now, the Queen Vic is serving dinner only, but Gordon plans to soon offer a weekend brunch and a “Sunday roast” dinner. A small upstairs patio will expand the number of seats to about 120 this spring.
All the more room, patrons may find, to go whole hog.