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Gypsy Queen shows pubs can bounce back

Family-friendly venue in Kentish Town has effortlessly adapted to the new normal

06 August, 2020 — By Tom Moggach

The Gypsy Queen’s gyoza

PUBS are serving but their future looks fragile.

Most are struggling to turn a profit; regular customers are wary to return. This week’s launch of the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme should help to boost confidence. But it’s only open to venues that serve food, while “wet” pubs must fend for themselves.

Over in Kentish Town, The Gipsy Queen proves that pub life can still thrive – if you have the right ingredients.

This successful, family-friendly venue, seems to have effortlessly adapted to the new normal. Social distancing is firmly in place; their secret garden is a tranquil spot to soak up the sun.

They have also bounced back with a tempting new pop-up menu. Their new chef is Fumio Tanga, who grew up in Hiroshima in Japan but moved to Camden Town back in 1996.

Food runs in his blood: he recalls his grandfather’s shop selling Momiji Manju, a famous maple-shaped pastry. Street stalls sizzled with Okonomiyaki, a type of special savoury pancake that Fumio recreates at The Gipsy Queen.

The pub itself is large and handsome and was previously known as The Bluebell and The Westport Inn. There’s plenty of room to enjoy your own table. Well-drilled staff serve a dizzying range of craft beers.

We grabbed a wooden booth in the back garden, where the walls are painted in stripes of vibrant colour.

Fumio’s menu includes snacky starters such as edamame, chicken wings and pitch-perfect vegan gyoza, the classic pot-sticker dumpling.

“I could smash a hundred of those any day of the week,” says our tattooed waitress, who wears her facemask with flair.

I loved the cucumber pickles, with deep savoury notes of sesame. His deep-fried cauliflower is a revelation, crisp and crunchy from a panko batter.

For a main, the Okonomiyaki, served Friday and Saturday, is quite an experience. This dish is well-known across Japan, but the version from Hiroshima is held in particularly high esteem. It’s a filling dish – ideal for pub grub – assembled from layers of egg noodles, beanshoots, cabbage and topped with a thin crepe scattered with spring onions and a zig-zag of special sauce. We tried one with squid and prawns; other options include pork, kimchi and cheddar or a vegan number with oyster mushrooms, cheddar and pickled ginger.

My kids enjoyed their Japanese Fried Chicken burger; we also shared a rice dish with tender belly pork and stewed daikon, a large type of radish.

On Sundays, the pub also serves a traditional Sunday roast with the occasional surprise. Roast beef with all the trimmings is lifted by a pot of wasabi cream; the nut roast is made with Shiitake mushrooms.

The Gipsy Queen is participating in the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, which is valid from Monday to Wednesdays. To find other participating venues, you will find a special search tool online which will show venues within a five-mile radius. Around 72,000 venues have applied so far.

Shoo Foo Doh
@ The Gipsy Queen
166 Malden Road, NW5
020 3092 0598
bookings@thegipsyqueennw5.co.uk

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