By Jim Ayres
I’m an Anglophile. Maybe a bit less fervently now compared to 1985, when Pet Shop Boys and Bronski Beat rocked my world, and EastEnders debuted on BBC One. Later that year, we began watching the beloved soap on PBS. For a few years, anyway. Economics took it away from us until BBC America picked it up (and then swiftly dropped it for the same reason).
The hub of life in Albert Square was and is The Queen Victoria Public House, affectionately known as The Queen Vic. Run at first by Den and Angie, then their daughter Sharon, then Phil and bear-crush Grant Mitchell, the pub was known for its lunches served, the last time I saw the show, from a steam table by the glorious Barbara Windsor.
Houston’s Queen Vic captures the spirit of a British pub quite nicely, although in posher surroundings than the TV Queen Vic. The food, too, is a far cry from the rudimentary shepherd’s pie, curries, and fish and chips we might associate with “ pub food.”
Take the Colonial Shepherd’s Pie, as I did one recent afternoon. This is shepherd’s pie as it’s meant to be—the real deal. A deeply flavorful lamb mince dances with fresh veggies, herbs and spices under an olive oil whipped mashed potato dome. Topped with good English cheddar, this is easily the best shepherd’s pie I’ve ever tasted. (So good, in fact, that my friend returned two days later just to have more!)
A Bhajia appetizer of fried onions and zucchini, breaded in chickpea flour and served with red pepper aioli, proved irresistible. So did the Ploughman’s Platter, loaded with charcuterie and artisan cheeses, including a Mycella Danish gorgonzola that’s impossible to find anywhere else. A bite of that cheese along with some tamarind chutney is a dreamy combination.
Rich earthiness lifted Mum’s Chicken Tikka Masala out of the ordinary. There’s a complexity to the spices, a rustic texture to the sauce, that results in a slow burn so perfect for
fall dining. The chicken is braised to maximum tenderness, though I was surprised to find that a lot of what I thought was chicken was potato. A small quibble in the end.
Fish & Chips here are near greaseless and made from sustainable cod. As you’d expect from a place that so deftly combines British and Indian influences, the tartar sauce gets quite a kick from unusual spices. I did think the naan was too thick and chewy, but a burger at a neighboring table looked formidable, juicy and delicious.
Service at the Queen Vic is friendly and attentive. Our server was delighted to look up the provenance of that cheese described above. Parking is strictly valet, and you have keep an eagle eye out for it. As with the white building, there isn’t much to tell you it’s “ right there” as you pull up to it. But do try to find it. The Queen Vic is a nice, fun way place to spend an afternoon or evening.
The Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen
2712 Richmond Avenue
Houston, Texas 77098