The Queen of Puddings
You know the saying, you never get an invite to Queen’s college formal and then two come at once, or is it buses? I forget. I hasten to add before any of my followers worry I’ve been slacking on my revision for finals, this is a belated review. I am always lamenting that King’s music society has no fancy end of year dinner like many other university societies ( admittedly because it is dominated by the male choir and they get fancy dinners for free), so I tend to take up offers from other colleges when I can get them. Last term it was Cauis (what Cauis lacks on an everyday basis it more than makes up for when they make an effort) this term, Queens. Of course they don’t just invite anyone to these things you have to have made a bit of an effort in turning up and take part in the concerts occasionally but luckily the Gent and I are seasoned college music society hoppers, guest appearing in a number of different concerts mostly coerced by the promise of food and drink. The only down side of this is occasionally there are members of the college you have to explain your presence to, especially fellows or even occasionally the master, in this case we kept our head down on a table with The Organist and a Hog’s head in lieu of The Yorkshireman who was unavoidably detained elsewhere. Unsurprisingly the Hog’s head was not the greatest conversationalist, but we kept it flowing (along with the wine).
I would say no expense spared, but unfortunately (as I was reliably informed by The Organist) Queens charge down to the name card and it was a choice between that and the menu. This meant I knew where I was sitting, but I’m afraid meant a lot of guesswork when it came to the food. Having said that the table was suitably fancy, the bread was warm and the butter was piped into swirls which I always think adds something a little special.
The Gent, the Organist and I started with the white wine (not knowing what we were eating) which was adequate and settled down to enjoy a sung grace in the style of Poulenc which definitely beat a fellow attempting to sing you get at most college dinners. Then came the starter. They had clearly upped the anti presentation wise to differentiate this dinner from regular formal hall, I particularly loved the dough sticks, a step up from bread with the pate. I am guessing the pate was either chicken or duck and it was pleasantly rich, salty and creamy. Unfortunately the ratio of pate to bread was a bit overwhelming and whilst the combination of the salty pate, sweet (I want to say tomato) chutney and the soft dough sticks worked well, there wasn’t enough chutney or bread and you ended up with half a lump of pate on your plate, which (after a bit) you realise is just salty and doesn’t taste of much else.
We moved onto the red for the main, usually a safe assumption, but we had both got it the wrong way round and the white was marginally nicer. It was pork belly. I was pleased at first because it was something different. A change from the college stalwarts of roast lamb, pork, beef, salmon… well you get the idea. Plus it is very hard to overcook pork belly because it is so fatty. While not the most healthy of meats, it is usually melt in the mouth with crispy crackling on top…..mmmm So I was a little confused as to how Queens managed to over cook the meat to a stringy texture with a fatty rather than crispy top, I suspect (ironically) it was actually cooked for too little time at too high a heat. Having said that I would happily eat a LOT of that mashed potato. It was buttery, with a hint of garlic, a hint of mustard, with the thick, comforting, smooth texture that solves many problems. It was complimented by the sweet and smooth carrot puree, unusually what appeared to be edamame beans, an unidentifiable sauce (which was nonetheless very nice) and crispy pancetta providing a burst of saltiness. Shame about the meat.
At my last dinner in Queens the highest compliment was held by the dessert. A sweet, warm, orgasmic sticky toffee pudding which would have elevated even the worst meal to delicious in my eyes. Sure enough it came out again (a house speciality in fact). They had clearly taken notes from last time as well (or perhaps it was the extra money) but it was served with sweet, thick and creamy vanilla ice cream, which (as I been told by the Organist when I was instructed to wait for cream last time) really made the pudding even better. While they haven’t exactly showed much variety, if it ain’t broke…. It certainly left me with a smile on my face. Queens are alright at the fancy stuff, but they do the simple stuff really well.