If you are like me a fan of Neil Gaiman's books then Camden market is the best embodiment of the Floating market from Neverwhere. A place that sells everything but nothing. During the day it swarms with tourists being enticed and beguiled by all manner of shiny things yet once they step away from it the magic fades. Camden by night is equally ephemeral with large groups of revellers descending on it for gigs and assorted revelry, it resembles a shabby West End. It's never been a dining destination per se though the behemoth that is Gilgamesh packs them in. Opening a restaurant here must be a tricky proposition as your day time trade will be pitched against the streetfood vendors from the market and nightime trade is limited to people catching a bite before going out and the somewhat limited pool of locals. Unlike nearby Islington this area hasn't been gentrified in fact a friend I've had who lived in the area resided in a decrepit block that was the embodiment of Victory Mansions in 1984. So with a recommendation in my pocket I headed off to Q Grill for a bite to eat before Big Matt and I headed off to see a band at the Electric Ballroom. Q Grill is bang opposite Camden market and handily is equidistant between the station and the Roundhouse. On entering I am pleased to see a smart looking bar set up for people to dine at. The room is bigger that it first appears with a dining area leading onto the big open kitchen and then a further space around the side leading up to a partitioned off area they use for parties. It's a big set up. I've booked and I'm offered a choice of tables so I opt for a spacious one for 4.
Waiting for Matt I sip on a very good Old Fashioned made with honeycomb and take in my surroundings and fellow diners. It's not that busy with a family having a half term meal and a few other tables taken with the post work crowd. The kitchen though open is right at the back of the kitchen though the slightly forlorn looking head chef looks ready and waiting to do his magic on the grill. Big Matt arrives and gets in a pint of Camden beer of which they stock the whole range. We peruse the menu and are drawn to their ribs but I do spot they do various sharing boards we opt for the middle one and some chips. Now I happen to have a dreadful cold that day so my taste buds and quite themselves so I partly rely on Matt to advise me on what we are served. The board arrives and on it are some grilled sausage, rump steak, chicken wings, a half rack of ribs and lots of deep fried pickles. Best of the lot is the steak, it is really well cooked, lovely and tender. The chicken wings are flabby and not jointed, the sausage is good but could have been more spicy. The ribs are decent but they are done with dry rub which is not my favourite. Call me a philistine but I like some sauce on my ribs. The pickles are good but they get a bit greasy after a while.
We are in no hurry to get to the gig so we decide to share a dessert and are intrigued by the chocolate bacon pretzel concoction they have. It arrives as a sort of ice cream sundae with chocolate covered pretzels and indeed crispy streaky bacon. It is odd but it does work the saltiness of the bacon a good foil for sweet pretzels. We finish off with a couple more beers and pay our £45 a head bill. The last half hour of our meal is enlivened by their resident guitarists who bangs out some tunes for us. Ultimately I want to like Q Grill more than I do. The bar, open kitchen and general set out are good. However the food is merely OK, as Big Matt said afterwards it was fine but we've come to expect a bit better these days. I also think the whole experience would have been better in a busier restaurant but on a cold February Thursday nowhere is. It's cheaper than a similar meal we had at Islington's Smokehouse but it's not nearly as good. So full up we set off for an underwhelming gig watching King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard, a band we were enchanted by at the magical Latitude Festival but were depressingly ordinary in resolutely unmagical Electric Ballroom.
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7