Fresh Flavours, Fun And Free Shots At New Restaurant Queenswood
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Battersea has a lot going for it, but it’s not Soho. Stating the bleeding obvious you might say, but with the arrival of Queenswood there a couple of weeks ago there is reason to make a comparison.
The restaurant comes from the team behind Berwick Street’s loveable Damson & Co, a bustling spot that can’t quite decide if it’s a coffee shop, café or bar. We’ve enjoyed ripe cheeses, stunning charcuterie and some excellent fresh south coast fish there over the years not to mention numerous coffees, G&Ts and a fair bit of wifi. It couldn’t suit its location more.
Battersea Square is very different. It doesn’t feel much like London at all, and that’s why the locals love it. It’s surrounded by rather nice restaurants but few that would inspire a journey of more than a short walk. Sure, Source serves elegant dishes built on excellent produce, and there’s great food to be had at Ramsay’s London House. But there’s no real energy there — it’s more sedate Surrey than sexy Soho.
With the arrival of Queenswood — presumably in a hulking great white van with the radio blaring as local curtains twitched — that might be about to change.
The atmosphere is certainly frenetic when we visit, with more people vying for seats than there are to be had and some mild panic on the door over confused reservations. Given how early days it is we really can’t blame the staff but are impressed at how quickly they win everyone over with their infectious enthusiasm. And some drinks at the bar, where we enjoy an excellent negroni made with rosemary-infused gin.
We’re offered a choice of tables in the dining area — which has the polished wood floors of a slick brasserie but the scruffed-up barely-painted walls of somewhere more rebellious — and fortuitously we pick the right one. Look out for it: it’s nestled right under the specials board, which means that waiters need to regularly lean across it in order to cross off items as they’re sold. Every time they do so, they give whoever’s sitting there a shot on the house by way of compensation.
As a result we end up downing quite a few measures of interesting Japanese spirits from cut-crystal shot glasses as we browse the menu, but we’re — at least fairly — confident that this little game isn’t the only reason we fall quickly in love with Queenswood.
For a start there’s the creamily soft slices of Galician octopus which transport us straight to Spain. They come with sunny saffron-infused chunks of boiled new potatoes, lashings of peppery olive oil and a sprinkling of smoked paprika (£8.50). Then there’s the strikingly vibrant salad of green beans, orange, grapefruit and coriander that’s topped with tender pieces of subtly smoked duck breast (£7.50). And the side-order of garlicky sautéed wild mushrooms which taste of the forest (£3.50). Oh, and did we mention the shots?
Queenswood also gives us our favourite fish dish of the year so far: a whole sea bass (£17) which has been encased in salt before being placed in the oven. This means it steams rather than bakes, keeping its flavour-packed juices intact, while the salt draws water from the flesh so that its naturally sweet flavour concentrates.
The menu is wildly varied — on first glance perhaps a bit confused — with tempura, couscous and Mozambique chicken also making the cut. But an understanding of the restaurant’s ethos helps pull it all together — the kitchen champions vegetables (though not necessarily vegetarianism) and takes a holistic approach to cooking, believing your meal should not only taste good but leave you feeling good. Dishes are generally wholesome, full of ingredients that are good for you and relatively balanced.
If that puts you off, then ignore it because you would never guess. Queenswood is not a health food restaurant — it serves steak and chips, cocktails and gives away shots. But its dishes are also triumphantly fresh, bright and zesty, with relatively little use of heavy creams and butter and you're likely to feel all the better for it. Most importantly, though, the food is exciting and the atmosphere is fun: surely nothing can be better for you than a combination like that.
Battersea locals — you lucky things. Further afielders — it’s worth the journey. It’s open daily from 8am until late for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and everything in between. We’re not sure when the shots start.
Queenswood is at 15 Battersea Square, SW11 3RA.
Last Updated 11 April 2015