McQueen – Shoreditch’s homage to Steve

McQueen is a bar and club with a plush and reasonably upmarket restaurant tucked away in the old light industrial area (now mostly smaller offices) in Tabernacle Street in Shoreditch. It is a popular destination – mainly for the bar and club – amongst the younger generation which is presumably where the spending power at such venues lies these days. As the name might suggest the decor is something of an homage to Steve McQueen – chosen as the epitome of ‘cool’ – again aimed at the target market.

What McQueen does it does well, and is certainly a popular destination, despite its slightly out of the way location on the corner of Tabernacle Street and Leonard Street – perhaps, though, not quite in keeping with the Wesleyan heritage of the area – John Wesley’s tomb is only around 100 yards away. Indeed it proudly boasts on its website that it was awarded the title of ‘London’s Best Bar’ in the 2010 London Club and Bar awards, and it does generate many positive reviews in the press and from drinkers and diners.

The layout is that the restaurant and lounge bar are at street level – but in totally separate rooms with the club located in the basement. The club is unlikely to impinge too much on the restaurant given that it only tends to liven up at an hour when most people will have finished dining.

The restaurant itself is spacious, comfortable and the ambience is fine – except the music piped through from the bar area can be a little noisy, which may appeal to some, but not to others. The decor is modern, plush, but not unpleasantly so, and there are Steve McQueen memorabilia much in evidence, while on one wall there is a large TV screen playing excerpts from Steve McQueen movies, without sound. On the evening we were there it was playing excerpts from The Magnificent Seven – perhaps a slight distraction if one was seated facing that way, but otherwise not unpleasant Seating was very comfortable and the overall atmosphere was very pleasant, staff were attentive and service was good.

 Part of the restaurant section at McQueen

Part of the restaurant section at McQueen

McQueen doesn’t try to provide too extensive a menu as is the pattern at some restaurants these days. Indeed the menu states that all the dishes are prepared a la minute and warns you to let the waiting staff know should you have any time constraints – but even so we didn’t .have to wait an excessive amount of time for our dishes to appear.

Food was actually pretty good – starters come in at £6.50 – £7.00 for the most part, although seared scallops with truffle cauliflower are a bit more expensive at £9.50 – these prices are all from the current menu which differs a little from the one we sampled.

McQueen does specialise in what it describes as food as having an American flavour – but actually not overtly so with some catering to very English tastes – how many Americans would, for example, have ever eaten mushy peas with fish and chips?

Half the main course menu is devoted to their grilled specialities with a steak special of the week as well as rib-eye (£22), sirloin (23.50) or fillet (£23 but slightly smaller) steaks, Maine lobster (Thermidor or grilled)- £18 or £35) – presumably for a half or whole one, Surf and turf (very American) with a 6 ounce fillet steak and half a lobster at £34.95 – or the more frugal option of a char grilled baby chicken at £14. There are also hamburgers and seven other options on the main course list – including the fish and chips and mushy peas. Most of the mains come with an accompanying vegetable, but if more is needed there is a choice of sides at £4.

There is also a £35 3-course set menu with two choices for each of starters, mains and desserts plus an additional vegetarian main

The food we had was well prepared – maybe not quite Michelin star fare – but excellent nonetheless. We washed it down with some great wine by the glass. If you want to share a bottle, these start at around £24.50 and go up to near the £100 mark for the best of their fine wines.

Overall a very pleasant dining experience – don’t be put off by the bar and club side of the establishment. McQueen is at 55-60 Tabernacle Street – telephone 020 7036 9229. It is open from noon on weekdays, from 6pm on Saturday and closed on Sunday.

Lawrence Williams – August 2012