Saturday 2 September 2023

Queen of Cups, Glastonbury, Middle Eastern restaurant review

With incense wafting from seemingly every other doorway, a disproportionate number of people wearing tie die t-shirts and harem pants, and the local pub playing an early evening trance music set in its back garden, Glastonbury is unlike any other place I’ve visited in the UK.

And it's also fair to say the Queen of Cups is unlike any other restaurant I've visited in the UK. Set in a historic pub and fittingly named after a tarot card, they serve modern Middle Eastern food with a good selection of real ale and Somerset cider to go alongside it.

Co-owned by Ayesha Kalaji, she's a chef who's worked in some top gaffs including London's Bubala and Palomar as well as Anglesey’s Michelin-starred Sosban and The Old Butchers.

I’m here on a tip-off from West Country native Soliciting Flavours, after a semi-successful day of twitching at RSPB Ham Wall. 

A bottle of Pilton sharing cider was both easy drinking and complex, with an almost smoky finish. And at £13 a bottle it was a cheaper alternative to drinking wine.

On the night we visited, specials included kubeb pepper venison cutlets (£22.50) and roasted wild grouse (£30) with mushroom and barberry jus. However, we opted for the Queens feast for two (£32.50 per person) as it took the decision making out of our hands and I assumed it would include some of the restaurant's greatest hits.

Crisp cubes of blushing pink, lightly pickled turnip were a moreish start to the meal.

Frena bread, cooked to order, was absolutely immense. Ethereally soft and light with a delicately crisp and charred exterior, it knocks the socks of most of the trendy loaded flatbreads I've eaten elsewhere recently.

It was the vehicle for a pair of excellent dips - silky and herby hummus spiked with smoked paprika and red shatta (chilli paste), and topped with soft, sweet confit garlic.

Creamy labneh was piled with cleansing cucumber and watermelon to balance its richness as well as a big flavoured three pepper blend.

Hyper crisp grilled Nabulsi cheese was like halloumi on steroids, and its accompaniments were genius - honey studded with a fine dice of Persian lime and a scattering of fresh oregano, both of which brought a wonderful fragrance to the dish.

I wouldn't be surprised if Lebanese spiced potatoes were triple cooked, such was the impressiveness of their shattering crunch. And the seasoning too, a delicate thrum of chilli, a lift of coriander and hit of garlic was indicative of all the cooking at the Queen of Cups with its layers and layers of flavour.

Earthy hibachi grilled merguez sausages were paired with creamy tahini and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Another standout of the meal was a whopper of a light textured, burnished pine nut kibbeh with a soft fig nestled at its core. It sat on top of a mound of yielding spiced braised beef, a sweet and salty beetroot and feta cream and a vibrant herb salad.

For dessert, a vegan take on muhalibiya delivered luxury in spades. The light and creamy rice flour and coconut milk pudding, with a comforting texture like retro semolina, was scented with tonka bean and orange blossom, and paired with diced fragrant strawberries and peaches as well as a silky smooth blood peach sorbet.

We had a superb meal of flavour-packed Middle Eastern cooking at the Queen of Cups accompanied by excellent cider and first rate friendly service. If I had a tarot reading then I’m sure it would predict another visit in my not too distant future.

The Details:

Address - Queen of Cups, 10-12 Northload Street, Glastonbury, BA6 9JJ
Telephone - 01458 831 255