Blues Brunch @ Q Grill, Camden
‘Cocaine and Caviar’ is emblazoned on a £5 hoodie as you exit Camden station and make the treacherous walk towards the incense-fumigated part of the market. Shuddering past mega-resto Gilgamesh, you reach Q Grill and breathe the sort of ‘thank-God-it’s-good-looking’ sigh that you need to quickly mask over.
Similar to the New York jazz brunch format, you can either get a blues brunch very wrong or nail it. With a low key, t-shirt clad singer in the corner of the room, fiddling with impressive looping techniques and plucking out contemporary classics “blues-ed up,” it’s just enough to set the southern comfort tone without veering into pastiche.
Staff usher you to feeding tables at the bar where, because of the proximity to the liquor, you’ll eat and drink way more of the hard and meaty stuff than you planned. It’s a solid Sunday brunch, but with enough Man vs Food vibes to quickly force a date out of their shell.
It’s past 11am and you’re already up at the bar so start strong with a couple of Negronis. Start with waffles and maple whipped butter then panic order a side of wings just as the booze hits. Despite obvious foodie credentials the kitchen team are wholly unpretentious about their menu – the insane spiced cornbread waffles were invented more as a joke when they were messing around with leftovers. Yup, and I woke up like this too.
Allocate the different menus, with one person ordering a brunch item – the fry up comes with ribs! – while the other fights the mains corner with buttermilk fried chicken, green beans and truffle Parmesan fries. Forget Mimosas and move onto the Old Fashioned menu next to compliment punchy flavours. Then share a sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
Bypass the walk from the tube and meet at the bar. This isn’t really a formal date, more like the sort of reckless Sunday where hungover women’s straps fall off their shoulders and men’s white shirts look grubby from the night before.
Share knowing looks with the barman as you order strong drinks. It’s very much like you’re being welcomed into their home so make sure you mix up your date night flirting with moments of across the bar chat. Ask for recommendations and impress your date by enquiring about when the drinking snug will be launching.
Start with cutlery but quickly give up and tear bits of waffle and chicken off, keeping laughter levels high. Start to feel delirious and chime in to the music for just a line, argh I love this tune. Wipe a smudge off their face and make one cheers too many.
One more whiskey? Fine, but then back to yours for lazy sex and cigarettes.
The smaller tables could be more awkward for first dates – it’s booths or bar or nothing.
4. It’s brunch but n-n-nastier.