Queens Cafe Bistro, found upstairs at the Queens Arcade near the tail end of Queen Street, is a brand new addition to the already thriving street. The fit-out is tidy, modern and with a nod to the cafe's namesake, the Queen (and just the United Kingdom in general). Think beautiful spacious wooden flooring paired with a few UK flag upholstered seats and other trinkets. Although I'm personally not too big a fan of blatant patriotic paraphernalia, Queens Cafe Bistro doesn't overdo it, making it a pretty comfortable and aesthetically appealing space to while the day away in. We choose to perch ourselves on the oasis-like balcony, which was surrounded by a juxtaposition of soothing leafy trees and fast paced, well heeled pedestrians below.
With not too much convincing needed, we ordered two midday martinis - one breakfast, one espresso - to start off the visit. The espresso was a tasty combination of Kahlua coffee liqueur, Stolichnaya vodka, Galliano vanilla liqueur and a shot of 100% Arabica espresso coffee. It was a delicious tipple, even though the foam was a bit tired. The Breakfast Martini (Rutte dry gin, orange marmalade, Cointreau and lemon juice) went down well as well.
After that followed the carpaccio, the starter of of the two course $35 set lunch my fellow diner ordered. I snuck a mouthful of the Mahi Farm beef carpaccio combined with pickled shitake mushrooms, baby potatoes and thinly cut potato chips. It was for the most part a nice, clear starter with good flavour profile although the potato chips were a bit random.
For the main, I tried the New Zealand crab salad ($21) served shredded atop of the baby cos with the guacamole, wasabi mayo, smoked mussel and crostini framing the salad. The smoked mussels added an interesting aspect to the plate, but as a whole it was a touch on the bland side and a bit off balance in terms of flavours. The market fish which my co-diner had was nicely presented and went down pretty well from what I could gather.
By far my favourite aspect of the meal was the chocolate cremoux ($15) which was an indulgent combination of 74% Valhrona chocolate cremoux, raspberry macarons, little shards of honeycomb and raspberry sorbet. As beautiful tasting as it was presented, the dessert had everything you could ask for in a good dish: smooth paired with crumbly and crunchy, rich chocolate paired with a nice acidy raspberry to undercut that richness a bit. It was genius cooking and a dish I would go back to Queens Cafe Bistro for especially.
Queens Cafe Bistro has the ideal location for a good business lunch that's still in the hub of the city but feels once removed. The food menu may have some inconsistencies in performance, but from what we understand it has gone through a major change recently since we dined there, with those dishes that didn't rate as favourably binned for what will hopefully become new staples. It's clearly still finding its legs, but we have a good feeling that it'll weather its first year in Auckland well, as long as it keeps honing in on its strongest dishes - like that beautiful cremoux.