Some time ago, I took up a slightly off-piste invite to try the Queens Road Bar and Grill at the Ramada Hotel in Coventry. Not an obvious choice, but I’m always keen to take a look at local places. In Rugby and Coventry we don’t always have the luxury of endless choice, big names, and swanky restaurant openings every minute, so sometimes you have to look in unlikely places.
It wasn’t half bad. Mr M and I had a good meal, the service was good and at the time I felt that it had managed to escape that soulless hotel feel to provide something that would cater for locals as well as visiting guests. Fast forward a couple of years and I was invited to return to the new-look restaurant, now called Queens Road Mediterranean Kitchen to try out their new offering. I’m not entirely sure what the motivation behind the re-naming was, but I’m guessing perhaps it wasn’t quite working before for them.
I took a friend this time. The decor hasn’t really changed, it’s the menu that’s different, though I did find it slightly puzzling. From ‘Mediterranean Kitchen’ I think I expected holiday food and to be fair, there were some. The special when we visited was a Greek Kleftiko, and the menu also boasts Italian-inspired Arancini and Fritto Misto starters as well as plenty of pasta and Saltimbocca and Milanese.
However, plenty of the offerings definitely felt more British than Mediterranean to me. Burgers, steaks, Cornish lamb cutlets, chicken parfait starter, soup, and a range of salads. All very appealing, but somehow didn’t quite sit in what I was expecting from something calling itself a Mediterranean Kitchen.
We started with a cheese and garlic flatbread. Entirely unnecessary but tempting and entirely respectable. Light bread with a crunch on the outside, tonnes of garlic and a light coating of cheese. Enough to whet the appetite for what would tun out to be a pretty substantial feast.
For starter my friend went for chicken and Vin Santo liver parfait with foccacia toast and chilli jam. Nothing we haven’t all seen on many menus before but it proved to be a hit with her. For me it was perhaps a bit coarse, without that silky smoothness you’d expect from a parfait but it was rich, meaty and sweet thanks to the Vin Santo.
I’d opted for cajun spiced fritto misto – a collection of whitebait, calamari, king prawns and mussels all packed into a paper wrapping with some pieces of dried lemon. The fish itself was great – lightly-fried with a slight warmth from the cajun spice without being too much to overwhelm the fish. The smoky garlic and lemon aioli that came with it was great and the kind of condiment you find yourself scooping out with your finger even after the crispy little fish is all gone.
For main, while I was tempted by the Kleftiko – and quite keen to see some of this Mediterranean cooking – I just couldn’t face anything quite so heavy, so opted for one of the lesser Mediterranean dishes on the menu, roasted sea trout. I’m a bit of a glutton for sea trout when I see it on a menu. It might look like salmon and apparently also feeds, swims and dies like salmon, but also has its own freshwater taste and for me, is slightly less sweet and rich.
Mine came in a chowder of Cornish clams, fennel and wild samphire and certainly looked the part. The trout was cooked simply, seared until the skin was crispy, and the chowder was a light accompaniment packed with fennel whose light, fresh aniseed flavour is often paired with trout. The samphire brought the saltiness and a different texture to the dish and I more-than-easily roared through it.
My pal couldn’t resist one of the Aubrey Allen 21-day-aged matured steaks, and went all out by adding grilled garlic prawns and red wine sauce. She’d recently had what she said was the best steak of her life while on a work trip in Europe and was keen to see if this could live up to it. It came close, apparently, but not quite.
Needless to say, it was an enormous portion and after trying each element I’m confident that the red wine sauce was the winner. Well reduced, rich, silky, and easy for me to finish off with a few of her chips (because yes, I am a glutton, but you knew that already).
For dessert, Kerry went for another of her faves to see how it lived up to her previous experiences – a vanilla bean panna cotta with baked peaches and strawberries. Panna cotta is on menus all over the place and can range from gelatine-heavy rubbery nastiness to squishy, unset creaminess that melts into a pool like the Wicked Witch of the West on a bad day.
I’m pleased to say this was neither. Well balanced in all the right ways. Obvious fleck of vanilla, sweet without being sickly, wobbly without being rubbery, and creamy without being slop. The baked peaches and strawberries added colour, texture and sweetness along with some mint leaves to bring a bit of freshness. Well done Queens Road, this was a good’un.
I’m not sure my affogato can count as a dessert. After all, it’s a scoop of ice cream with an espresso poured on top. But I just couldn’t face much more food (yes, even I get beaten sometimes). But it was presented nicely, the ice cream was decent quality, as was the coffee. A nice ending to a decent meal.
Yet again, I came away from Queens Road quite impressed. For a hotel restaurant it’s doing a good job. It was busy the night we visited, which was a Monday, and I’m fairly sure not everyone dining was a hotel guest. It’s not dirt cheap but I don’t think the prices are unreasonable for what you get – between £5 and £10 for a main, and anything between £10 and £20 for a main, with steaks at the upper end of the scale. But that’s for what, in my humble opinion, are decent ingredients, well executed and served up imaginatively and in a nice setting.
My only question mark, I guess, is the ‘Mediterranean’ aspect. I can see what Queens Road is doing with that and yes, there are choices reminiscent of food from the countries surrounding the Med, but I wonder if perhaps calling it this might confuse potential punters. We’ll see. Despite this, not a bad little place to try if you’re looking for somewhere in Coventry and again, for me, not your run-of-the-mill hotel restaurant.
I was invited to review the new offering at Queens Road, Coventry, and our meal was complimentary.