The furniture is solid wood, mid-20th century style panelled tables and a selection of straight-backed chairs, apart from the one wall where there is a bench seat along its entire length. It provides a warm atmosphere, unlike the modern, characterless tables and chairs in so many restaurants these days.
Initially the service was rather slow. One waiter approached after 10 minutes, to apologise for the delay in the waitress coming over. He took my order for a drink. Five minutes later the waitress took my food order, but my drink did not arrive for another couple of minutes, followed shortly by the 'nibbles' order of olives, which were spicy and moreish.
After this, the service was excellent and attentive. My starter of Burgundian snails arrived piping hot. However, the crusty toasted slices of baguette were not conducive to dipping in the garlic butter - untoasted would have soaked up the juice better. The main course of grilled herb marinated free range chicken supreme was tasty and the 'haricot jaune' (green beans) were just right but it was nothing out of the ordinary. The outstanding surprise of the evening was the absolutely delicious chocolate and coffee marquise which melted on the tongue and really stimulated the taste buds! Rounded off with a creamy cappuccino (but sadly no chocolate topping), it was a most satisfying meal, each course well presented and inviting.
The turnaround was less than an hour and a half, which was just right, being on my own. But there was no pressure to clear people from their tables, which can be very irritating when enjoying a relaxed evening with friends. There was a buzz of conversation, without being too noisy, and no annoying background music. It was an altogether pleasant experience.
The prices are mid-range, the average cost of a 3-course meal (without drinks) being £30-£40. The menu is reasonably varied and there are 4 vegetarian starters, although only 2 main course choices. However, vegetarian choices are invariably limited in many restaurants. There is a good range of choices for non-vegetarians.
The British Queen, in Locks Bottom, is the 4th pub brasserie to open for the White Brasserie Company, which is aiming to have a chain of twenty restaurants.
Margot Rohan (Orpington Community)