Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 12 January 2012
CLOSED: Mary Queen of Scots: A Restaurant Review

Mary Queen of Scots
115 Allen Street, at Delancy Street, Lower East Side
Getting There: F to Delancey Street


The Lower East Side may be the new hot bed for New York City nightlife, but not every street is laden with boys and girls in skinny jeans. Just a few steps away from the late night madness, there is a more chilled out spot that envelopes all of your eating and drinking needs. This LES respite is Mary Queen of Scots and it’s located on a sleepy yet relaxed corner of Allen and Delancey Street.

The Scottish themed eatery is perhaps best described as a gastropub meets classy hunting lodge, with its cozy interior. Upon entering the dimly lit restaurant the hustle and bustle of Manhattan subsides as you are immediately transported to a quiet side street of Scotland. Wooden tables with plush red cushions fill the front dining area, with many of them having actual candles burning, giving the restaurant a charming old-world feel. Coupled with exposed brick walls lined with old fashioned portraits, knick knacks both large and small fill the remaining space, providing great eye candy and conversation starters for gabbing about should you choose to stay for dinner.

There is more to Mary Queen of Scots than just a restaurant. Head to the back to discover a stunningly ornate bar that celebrates the art of the drink even before you take your first sip. The bar is huge with a cherry wood finish, plenty of seating, and sits directly under a beautiful opaque glass ceiling. It is ideal for a post dinner drink or simply making for an entire night of imbibing. And in keeping with the old school feel, each of the bartenders wear throwback barkeep wear- black vest, tie, and of course, no shortage of facial hair.

The current trend of mixology themed speakeasies may be saturating the bar scene, but Mary Queen of Scots pulls it off impressively. Their list of prohibition era cocktails is particularly notable. Most, if not all the bitters and mixers, are made on site and contain only natural ingredients. We decided to go with one of our favorite standby drinks, the “Old Fashioned” ($12). The knowledgeable bartender suggested we take it with rye, and we were glad we did. After watching him muddle and season the drink with fresh orange zest it was time for tasting. Having had many Old Fashioneds in the past, we were looking for something different and better here which is exactly what we got. It was smooth, without being too sweet and had a great drinkability. If you’re not a fan of cocktails, fear not as there is a diverse beer menu featuring solid craft brew draft selections.

The food menu ties in wonderfully with the rest of the place’s natural vibe. Scottish pub fare like “fish and chips” ($20) and “venison wellington” ($27) sits alongside roasted duck, sea bream, and roast pork belly. Trying to get a feel for all of the flavors, the “seared Hudson Valley foie gras” ($16) called out to us from the word go. The beautifully plated dish perfectly combined the sweetness of a port glaze and warm fig with the savory nature of the specially fattened liver fat. Topped with a crunchy walnut crumble, the dish was a delicious dinner starter. The “MQS Burger” ($16) was similarly tasty, cooked to a medium rare, smothered in cheddar, topped with a spiced tomato pickle and fresh iceberg lettuce. Served on a wooden serving tray with a small pot of pickles and thick cut, seasoned French fries, the flavorful burger was not sloppy, nor overwhelming- a pleasantly surprising dish for us hungry carnivores. Ont the other hand, vegetarians will ooze over the “grilled trumpet royale mushroom salad” ($15), a sizable portion of char-grilled mushrooms over a bed of greens topped with squash blossoms, and sunflower seeds, and doused in a truffle vinaigrette. Also worth noting was the “fried boozy Brussels sprouts,” a tremendous value at just $6. The tasty side was a generous portion of caramelized sprouts, jumping out of the bowl with a mouthwatering vegetable meets expertly salted flavor.

Whether dropping by Mary Queen of Scots for a quick drink or an involved dinner, the fun little atmosphere inside won’t disappoint, and much of the food, is actually quite good. As a nod to a Scottish pub meets restaurant, MQS excels wonderfully, with a cozy, inviting atmosphere all its own. Old fashioned and intricate all at once, the feeling inside is uniquely authentic. But wearing a kilt is completely up to you.

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