Duck below the cobbles of Frederick Street in New Town and you will find an unassuming pub that is decidedly old-fashioned. Push your way through the hordes of cheerful pub-goers and find yourself somewhere between a traditional pub, a trendy bar, and a gentleman’s library. Shelves crammed with leather bound books line the walls while empty wine bottles adorn the ceiling, enveloping the space in both familiar comfort and outlandish quirk. Welcome to The Queen’s Arms.
The friendly staff split their time bustling between the bar and the tables, and while they took a bit of time to sort out our last-minute reservation, the suggestion of a pre-dinner drink at the bar set a welcoming tone for the evening. After a quick browse of the drinks menu, you will find that they are serious about their whisky at The Queen’s Arms. From local favourites to the exotic likes of Japanese whisky, all manner of the good stuff can be found here.
Not a whisky connoisseur myself, I skipped the lengthy menu and opted for a cocktail instead. Keeping with the “Queen” theme of the restaurant, the Queen’s Blush was my drink of choice – sweet from the grapefruit, with just a touch of tartness from the lemon, all topped up with a healthy serving of Grey Goose vodka. If you just cannot bear ordering a cocktail in a pub, the impressive beer menu should be up your alley. With a large selection of beers on tap, and a substantial range of bottled beers, there are endless reasons to hang by the bar.
Much like ‘any old pub’ in Britain, The Queen’s Arms offers up the sort of rainy-day comfort food that is expected in a city that rarely sees the sun. But The Queen’s Arms also has something a bit more special up its sleeve: the promise of a mean Sunday roast or a hearty pie, not just for one, but to share among friends.
Social food experiences are all the rage nowadays, but a pub is perhaps the last place that you would expect to find a menu that is keeping up with trends. It seems to have worked here, though, with The Queen’s Arms’ Sunday roasts selling out almost every week. For a weeknight dinner, however, a sizeable savoury pie was the name of the game.
Unsure whether or not starters would be necessary with such a large meal ahead, our waitress was more than helpful in suggesting two popular appetizers to nibble on. The haggis lollipops take the often-feared meat to a new level, with a crispy breadcrumb crust and an elegant presentation on a wooden board, proving that British pub food can, indeed, be fun. For those who are not quite ready to delve into the Scottish delicacy, a less adventurous (but equally tasty) portion of chilli and garlic tiger prawns may be suitable.
The star of the show, however, was the pie of the day. A buttery pastry crust bursting at the seams with peppery haggis and tender steak is a feast for the eyes as much as it is for the stomach. Served with a side of mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and extra gravy for good measure, this pie for two could have easily been shared among three. Always up for the challenge, however, we saddled up to work our way through the hefty meal.
But even on a full stomach, the dessert menu will always tempt. With a list of truly British favourites from lemon posset to blueberry trifle, The Queen’s Arms sticks to its roots when it comes to pudding. For an utterly indulgent end to the meal, the fluffy chocolate stout cake with creamy rum raisin ice cream fits the bill.
With a menu steeped in British traditionalism and a fresh concept that encourages sharing, The Queen’s Arms strikes the perfect balance between old and new, without drifting too far in either direction. Come for a pint, and stay for a few haggis lollipops. Classic pub fare has never had it so good.
[Image: Leda Olia]