Saturday, 17 April 2010

Old Queen's Head review (Islington) - a disappointing Sunday Roast

Address: 44 Essex Road, London N1 8LN
Tel: 020 7354 9993
Nearest Tube station: Angel

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 10%
Taste: **
Service: ***
Ambience: **
Suitable for: a hearty breakfast after a hangover
There’s this quaint little pub just outside our place along Essex Road in Angel. Perhaps ‘quaint’ wouldn’t be the correct word for Old Queen's Head at Islington with the spotlights flashing within and long queues outside the pub almost every evening but that was the exact word I had in mind when I visited it for a Sunday roast on a splendidly beautiful Sunday (when else?) morning.

Mention a pub, images of people standing around with a pint in their hands with loud music (sometimes live) playing in the background come to mind. As it gets later into the night, the music becomes louder, conversations more heated and voices more slurred.


There was a time when smoking was allowed indoors. Revellers who were eager to be seen with the in crowd remained in the pubs despite being suffocated by second hand smoke. It didn’t take long convincing them to light up a fag as well, assuming that they were non-smokers to begin with. With indoor smoking banned, pub goers would only have to contend with vomit. That’s probably the reason why most pubs don’t come with carpets in the first place.

Anyway, Old Queen's Head looks quite different on a Sunday morning. There was a sign placed outside on the pavement in a half-hearted attempt advertising their Sunday roast. Other than a couple of staff whom I have no doubt weren’t the same running the show the night before, the entire pub was empty. Well, save for a chap slumped over the bar.

We settled down on the deep red hard leather sofa (the type that is alcohol and vomit resistance) at the edge of the pub. With a decorative fireplace, which might have been functioning once, and a stuffed antelope’s head perched on the side wall, there was a rather melancholy air to the it.

I took a look at the menu. Chicken, beef and lamb. No brainer really. “Can I have a roast Welsh lamb please?” I almost had to tiptoe over the bar. It was only recently that I found out that Napoleon was a full inch taller than me. Didn’t help my self-esteem a bit. A fresh eye waitress took my order and promised to be deliver our order to us in a moment. Perfect.


The roast Welsh lamb (£12) looked healthy. Not the slab of meat itself but the mixture of cauliflower, broccoli and beetroot topped with a couple of roasted potatoes. The lamb was a tad cold and uninspiring. In fact, it didn’t even looked freshly roasted and tasted flat. If not for the beetroot and piping hot potatoes, I wouldn’t be able to finish the meal really.


The chunky hand cut chips was a different matter altogether. It was lightly deep fried in fresh oil. That, and the warm baguette that came with the soup of the day made my day. As we finished our meal at around 1pm, people were streaming in gradually for a really late brunch. I guess the free newspapers (Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Sunday Times, you name it) helped as well.

If having high tea at Ritz is the thing to do in London (I personally wouldn’t recommend doing that at Fortnum & Mason), then doing a Sunday roast at a proper pub is a must. Even though the roast at Old Queens Head isn’t the best but it is an experience nevertheless. But I'll probably head towards The York, which is a stone's throw away from Angel station, the next time round. Unlike Old Queen's Head, The York is almost certainly packed on Sunday mornings.

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The London Foodie said...

Interesting review, this is one my locals as I live a few minutes from there! I have never been for breakfast at the Old Queen and is unlikely I will be visiting after your review! Glad to see some other Islington places on your blog like the Shepherdess Cafe and S&M on Essex Rd, always wondered about these places. Cheers!

Darren said...

We do the same thing. Ten people at times from a pool of 20 with squad rotations. April sees our 2nd year anniversary for the quest for the best sunday pub roast lunch.

Feel free to check it out. There have been good and bad. We look at your site and take note too.

Of all, check out the Harwood Arms and the Butchers Hook in SW London.