Kind of back to front: The Queen and Mangosteen

After a day that was elongated through lack of sleep, I was keen for a bit of indolence at the end; home cooked food is great, but tragically there’s always washing up to do. I was meant to be meeting people for drinks over at the Fullerton, but when that fell through at the last minute and I discovered my wife was down at Harbourfront, I rushed down as fast as the MRT would take me. Initially we planned on eating at Jamie’s Italian, because there’s nothing so Singaporean as an Italian restaurant operating under the aegis of an Englishman, but everyone else in the Lion City had the same idea as us, and we couldn’t face wandering the mall for an hour waiting for a table. And so instead we went to The Queen and Mangosteen.

My first assumption when I saw it was that it would provide a kind of Thai fusion horrorshow, with coconut curry soaked bratwurst or something equally horrible. But in fact it bills itself as a "gourmet pub", serving traditional English pub grub.

(In the UK, that would be a "gastro-pub", and interestingly, Quebecois slang for a stomach upset is "gastro", after gastroenteritis, one assumes, which in turn suggests a gastro-pub is as appealing to a Quebecois as a dysentery diner or a Legionnaires’ Disease Luncheon would sound to me.)

The pub has a strange layout, probably forced on it by the shopping mall. There’s a big open room at the front with lots of tables and chairs, and then a narrow corridor leads to a second space, where the actual bar is, and, while we were there, a bellowing competition. We didn’t take our daughter down to see that; it may have been her three month celebration of being born (3 more months to Christmas!) but she didn’t need her tender ears assaulted that much.

As a result, all the atmosphere of the pub is out the back, and the front area feels a bit sterile. Almost as if we were in a giant shopping mall. There was also only a single member of staff dealing with the entire room; after countless episodes of Bar Rescue, I know that’s not the way to do it.

Still, we got served pretty quickly. The menu is all British staples, like sausages and steak and pork chops , with a few concessions to vegetarians like risotto and mushrooms. My wife was super excited to be able to order Yorkshire puddings, although I cringed. Not because she’s Canadian and can’t say "Yorkshire" correctly ("sheer", not "she-ire" – when you live in a crowded country, you don’t waste time pronouncing every syllable just because you can) but because commercial Yorkshire puddings are a troubling proposition. The Yorkshire is easy to make, but hard to make well, and so it was with these: rock hard on the outside, and not fully cooked on the inside. A proper Yorkshire should be light and airy, not suitable as a makeshift paperweight.

The sausages and the mashed potato were fine, but the strange thing was my mushroom sandwich: it came with truly delicious French fries, a salad, and bread that was straight from a panini. All of which were good, and none of which were particularly English.

You’d expect the Yorkshires would be what they’d concentrate on, and the vegetarian sandwich just a disappointment for stupid non-carnivores. I shouldn’t complain.

Apparently, the bar is named after Queen Victoria, for her legendary demand for fresh mangosteens. A legend so famous throughout England that I’d never heard of it, which makes me a little suspicious of its veracity. So there’s that which is a bit back to front too.

Not that I can criticize; I spent part of today (about fifteen minutes) writing the best man’s speech for a wedding where I’m not the best man, and I’ve never even seen bride or groom. If that isn’t confused and messed up, I don’t know what is. I should have asked the Pet Shop Boys what to do.

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