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GOING OUT: Q GRILL

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What with the ubiquity of BBQ food in London, one might wonder whether the owners of Camden’s Q grill might have been better off serving up something a little more exotic; surely London could do with a couple more Icelandic restaurants? Or even something Finnish? But no, BBQ is what we like and BBQ is what we have. They better do a bloody good job of it then…

Gratefully bypassing the wretched food stands of Camden Market (“Street Food” may have become the glamour food term of the decade, but what they serve there will, I fear, always remain shit), my fellow diner and I stomped a few hundreds yards down Chalk Farm Road, past one or two other BBQ houses I might add, and arrived in the warm glow of Q grill with a keen sense of anticipation and a willingness to enjoy the boisterous atmosphere created by a Christmas party in the corner.

Instantly greeted as arrived, we were shown to a table right beside the open kitchen. The fiery heat of the grills and ovens was noticeable, as was the clatter and clang of industry behind the stoves. The pleasant scent of smoke filled the room, the sight of a giant paving slab of ribs and a whole chicken on the adjacent tables instantly sparked keen debate as to what we might order.

“In the interest of doing this properly” to quote my companion, we ordered from the comprehensive cocktail list. I received a “Kentucky Tea” which had the refreshing taste of Earl Grey spiked with a generous dash of tequila and the welcome sweetness of honey. The conclusion was that ice tea and booze should meet more regularly. There was also the ominously titled “Resurrection” which was a potent, well-balanced mixture of dark rum, honey and lime on the rocks.

A starting platter followed, accompanied by authentic cornbread in paper bags. Dense and heavy with a buttery taste and the enduring warmth of green chilli, the cornbread was a worthy vehicle for butternut squash hummus that was sweet and creamy and scattered with feta burnt on the grill. Short rib fritters were a deep-fried combination of mashed potato and slow-cooked meat – the smoky tenderness of the meat a portent of what was to come.

Our cocktails were replaced by tankards of Micheladas – the mysterious bastard child of beer and bloody mary that originates in Mexico and surprises all those who order. A miniature virgin mary is topped up with lager to create something savoury and spicy yet possessed of all the refreshing crispness of ice cold lager. I am entirely certain that this was created by accident (or by the people with twisted minds that invent the plots for horror movies) but it is an ingenious, delicious beverage nonetheless.

Enter the main course. The aforementioned slab of pork ribs is directed to our table this time, covered in a slightly iridescent BBQ glaze that shifts between sweet, sticky and gently spicy. The meat, as it should, falls from the bones willingly and provides only token resistance to the eager teeth that tear at the flesh. The lingering spice of the glaze is supplanted by the well-seasoned fries and the sweetness of a creamed corn side order. Tenderstem broccoli with aioli was ordered as a perfunctory nod towards good health but adds a welcome freshness to the meal as well as being the token green presence (this one’s for you Mum) amidst the charred blacks and burgundies.

A USDA prime striploin steak, that our amicable waiter directed us towards is a true highlight. Tender yet substantial, the deep taste of the charcoal grill gives way to the iron-rich meatiness of medium rare beneath. The peppercorn, though when tested with a chip seemed perfectly adequate, was not required – we’re here for blackened meat, that is all.

More micheladas arrive before dessert – an outrageously boozy pecan and Bulleit Bourbon tart that is only part dessert, the rest cocktail. Still the pastry is buttery and rich and the filling and, though heavily laced with bourbon, gives way to sweetness and is generously scattered with crisp pecans.

As we exit the restaurant and, a little slower this time, wander back towards Camden Town past the fast-food sheds with their shutters shamefully drawn we are grateful to the fine effort made by Q Grill. A bloody good job well done indeed.

Q Grill are offering 50% off to those who dine on Mondays throughout January (with one of their free loyalty cards). More information on the restaurant is available here.

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