Q Grill in Camden
Walk through pretty much any corner of London, no matter how gastronomically blessed it is, and some vaguely American-inspired restaurant will stare back at you. The lure of “slaw”, a word now ubiquitously littered across all kinds of menus, and the promise of sticky, barbecued meats have for some time been drawing in the hoi polloi with disturbing ease. While many joints are dead behind the eyes, flogging a dead horse and distorting the joys of a good American restaurant, there are still gems to be found.
The recently opened Q Grill on Chalk Farm Road, owned by restaurateur Des McDonald, is a striking space. A didactic blackboard dissecting fish and meat towers over the room like an intimidating university lecturer. The open plan kitchen and its Josper grill, licking flames everywhere, draws wandering eyes away from quaint beer pumps and peculiar (go to the toilets) wall art. With a barnstorming playlist – start with Velvet Underground and carry on travelling deeper into the American psyche – an afternoon here could swiftly turn into a late-night session of good food and a severe exploration of the impressive drinks list (think Dark ‘n’ Stormies, local and American beers and a modestly priced wine collection).
The food is, though early days, already at a high level. Sea Bass, served ceviche and devilishly pretty, kicks and screams with chilli heat but melts away when balanced on deft, precision cut strokes of spiced, crisp plantain. A little Salad of Hickory Hot Smoked Salmon – fatty and generously flaked – is equally light. Jersey royals, oozing quail eggs and the hum of horseradish come with it and dance a restrained, affable jig of flavour.
Mains see the arrival of the American heavyweights and their raging depth of flavour. A Short Rib of Beef represents terrific bang for buck. Deep and sticky, rich and tender, its flesh seduces from the beginning and ends in spankingly clean bones. It is a shirts stripped, lights off, no talking kind of dish. Keeping things in check stand precisely prepared and handled cime di rapa, whose astringency is the perfect foil for the mesmeric beef.
A Pit–Smoked Beef Hash is equally serious stuff. The hash drips under the weight of a gushing duck egg yolk and punches you in the face with intense umami flavours: this is comfort food at its peak. If its presence at the advent of all raging hangovers was a guarantee, spirit cabinets across the land would be maniacally raided with prolific frequency.
On the side sit chips – glassy and crunchy and salty in equal measures – plus a bottle of Homemade BBQ Sauce that swiftly empties to be mopped up by anything smart enough to spot a good deal: smoky, sweet and spiced, it is American nectar.
Sure, there are dull points. Creamed Corn is a little gloomy and under seasoned while a Banoffee Cheesecake fails to reach the heights of a Pit-Grilled Pineapple (the accompaniments of which are a delight: faux iced-gem meringues, flecks of red chilli and tiny dots of white chocolate are a happy, orchestrated accident of colliding flavours, and a numbing lime sorbet provides a fairground sherbet sensation) but everything else is pitch-perfect. Think TGI Fridays after an intensive decade-long course of performance-enhancing drugs.
Q Grill has swiftly entered the rarefied atmosphere of near-faultless American restaurants in London. In such an inflated and cluttered market place, Q Grill is definitely worth the BBQ sauce-stained shirts and expanded waistlines.
Q Grill: 47/60
To reserve a table at Q Grill, 29-33 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AJ, call 020 7267 2678 or for more information visit here.