One of my favourite things about a new relationship is the first kiss. It’s the moment leading up to it when you can feel your pulse quickening, a shortening of breath, your stomach twisting and turning, a million butterflies leaping up towards your throat. Then the meeting of lips – you see stars and it takes your breath away. It’s a moment that is entirely sexy, more so than even the act of sex itself; it’s a striptease, a blanket of sensuality; it leaves you feeling desirable and only wanting more. My experience of McQueen in Shoreditch was exactly like that first kiss and I am entirely infatuated.
McQueen, a bar, club and now restaurant in the heart of Shoreditch, takes its decor and inspiration from the legendary Steve McQueen. I first encountered it at the restaurant launch back in March. The interior was all wood and leather, a strange black sculpture was mounted on the wall, bodies intertwined and protruding forth in strange and wonderful positions. It exuded a rather masculine air but somehow managed to feel sensuous and mysterious, appealing to all sexes. Entertainers spun hoops and contorted into pretzel shapes; cocktails were dispensed from the bar with flair; canapés, a selection from the menu, circulated just outside my reach and I chased them surreptitiously.
A black tray filled with spoons passed over my head and I grabbed for one, popping it into my mouth quickly. My eyes widened – a perfectly cooked scallop atop a truffled parsnip puree; the textures, the flavours – all were perfect. I looked for more but alas, the girl with the tray of deliciousness had disappeared into the throng and swallowed whole, much like my scallop. At that moment I was sold and vowed to come back for dinner; three months later I could fulfill that promise.
After a cocktail at the bar, I found myself seated on a plush leather sofa, sinking into the cushions, struggling to see my two dining companions, Neil and Jason, over the top of the table. Already a wee shot of a thing, in the company of my two over-six-foot-male friends, I felt like a midget. Luckily there was plenty of wine being poured into my glass, so though I wasn’t getting any taller after a while I simply didn’t care. The restaurant had apparently tried a few different menu styles before deciding on the current American and Cajun influenced dishes. A quick glance through and Jason and I selected the scallops (of course) then the pork tenderloin and ham hock risotto, and the steak, served with duck fat chips, whilst Neil opted for the crayfish bisque, followed by the burger. “I always have the scallops,” Jason confided, “I know I should really try the rest of the menu but the scallops are just so good.”
The dining room was at quarter capacity, conversations were quiet with the occasional laughter (probably mine) being swallowed into the cushioned room; above me a giant silver orb was suspended, on the far wall a large widescreen television was playing a Steve McQueen film on repeat; the light from the kitchen to my left illuminated the otherwise mood-lit arena.
Our starters arrived, the scallops just as good as I remembered, if slightly overcooked, but the flavours spot on. The bisque was delicious, warming with a hint of a kick, small chunks of lobster dotted throughout. We polished them off quickly, a couple more glasses of wine and the mains were delivered to us. My dish was more a risotto than a pork dish but it was delicious; Jason’s steak and Neil’s burger were beautifully presented and tasty – the duck fat chips were insanely good, soft and fluffy, twice-fried to perfection. Dishes wiped clean and more wine, I was starting to see double whilst the chaps were taking it all in their stride – damn this miniature body of mine.
Dessert menus arrived, along with a delectable espresso martini from the bar. Both boys opted for the cheese plate while I selected the baked New York style cheesecake. Though the cheese was a winner, sadly my cheesecake was not – the base was a little too soggy, the flavour of the cheesecake itself too neutral for my taste, but it wasn’t terrible, just mediocre compared to what was otherwise a superb meal. Finally, Neil selected a whiskey for the three of us – the only thing we seemed to be missing were cigars and, in my case, male genitalia.
Whiskey finished, goodbyes said and in a cab home, I sat back feeling giddy and not just from the copious amounts of alcohol I’d consumed over the course of the evening. I felt as if I’d met a new love, right in the heart of Shoreditch and I couldn’t wait to court them again.
McQueen, 55-60 Tabernacle Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 4AA. Tel: 020 7036 9229. Website.