Once upon a time, you couldn’t trot around Camden Town without someone trying to flog you overpriced oregano. These days, it’s starting to resemble another generically affluent corner of north London, though it still has its boisterous punky underbelly in parts.
One of the latest by-products of Camden’s gentrification (initially announced by the arrival of Whole Foods) is that the smoky, dirty Americana bandwagon is rolling into town. The newest joint to land is Q Grill, the brainchild of Des McDonald of Islington Fish & Chip shop fame.
Like The Fish & Chip Shop, Q Grill is an obviously good restaurant without being worthy of unanimous applause. A recent visit revealed friendly service, a menu that reads like a hipster’s wet dream, and Camden Brewery beers on tap for good measure. The restaurant’s decor is a particularly slick take on the rustic roadhouse but is definitely pleasant, and the vibe was good fun on a Saturday night.
The food? We’ll get to the real highlight of the meal in a moment, but in general it was all quite nice with few examples of the exceptional. We were particularly excited to sample the Josper oven ribs, which ended up being damned with the praise of simply being “good” – meaty and well-rubbed but, to my palate, a bit dry (though a couple of lovely sauces were on hand) and lacking a real smoky hit.
It’s entirely likely we would have been a lot keener had we not recently sampled the frankly mind-blowing wares of pop-ups Hotbox and Smokestak, as well as experienced #BBQWhiskeyBeer in its Paddington heyday. Sides were also competent without being overly arousing, though special praise was reserved for the creamed corn.
It’s also feasible that we were expecting such great things from our mains because the meal kicked off in the best possible way – with really rather stunning wings. I was sceptical about the whole “Cornish hen” menu description but, wherever these flappy birds were from, they tasted bloody brilliant. Of the standard BBQ variety, the meat pulled clean off the bone and was exceptionally moist, benefitting from just the right amount of char on the skin. The aforementioned barbecue sauce, which the wings had presumably been basted in, drew a full round of approving grunts. It was one of the best I can remember, featuring pleasing whacks of spice and even a little bit of heat – sickly sweet supermarket rubbish, this was not.
Q Grill is now top of the 2014 Wingin’ It class, earning what’s likely to be the highest score my biased tastebuds can give for non-Buffalo wings. But they really are a bit special, even if I can’t award the final point for successfully transporting me back to my childhood.
Related: An introduction to Wingin’ It
There’s a load of places in Camden I’m up for trying these days. Porky’s is another newcomer claiming to offer the real BBQ deal, while the Camden Town Brewery has an increasingly awesome street food setup. But despite the variety of temptations, I’d still look forward to going back to Q Grill – to explore its impressively worded menu further but, most importantly, to chomp back half a dozen of its superb wings over a pint of top notch pale ale. Is there a better start to a night out in Camden?
Wingin’ It Verdict: 4/5