Location: 1206 H St NE (X2, X9 buses)
What a weekend. On my first days off since starting work, there was 1) the hottest June day in DC history, 2) an insane rainstorm that's left hundreds of thousands of residents without power, and 3) my first time trying "authentic" fish & chips. For the latter, I went with several of my coworkers to The Queen Vic, a British pub in the middle of the hip, new H Street / Atlas District.
Nestled in the middle of the more-up-than-coming H Street District, The Queen Vic is a British pub if I've ever seen one. United Kingdom flags fly both inside and out, and the PA system is dominated by well- and lesser-known British bands. The menu, both food and drink, are chock full of UK classics including the Thornbridge Kipling IPA. The service, however, left quite a lot to be desired (more on that later), and I hope that isn't authentic British as well.
Truthfully, we went for the fish & chips. I'd heard that these were the best in town and wanted to see for myself. Not surprisingly, when I told my friends why I was going to Queen Vic, they all went for the fish & chips too. Mental note: next time you go eat with friends, try to end up with more than one type of dish among 7 people.
So then, how were the fish & chips? Authentic, I think, is the best word for it. The Queen Vic uses a different fish every day, and on this particular day, tilapia was the catch of the day. The beer batter is incredibly thick and crunchy, almost like a book's hardcover. I loved the fact that you get one giant piece of fried fish instead of multiple little pieces; the thing looks like a loaf of bread when it comes to you. It's served with freshly seasoned fries, tartar sauce, and mushy peas, which, for those of you who've never had it, tastes exactly like it sounds. Aside from the grilled lemon, there's plenty of malt vinegar on the table, imported fresh from England.
As for the fish, I have to say I was underwhelmed. It's likely quite authentic, but then again, how many people really like authentic British food? I wish the beer batter or the fish itself were actually seasoned, because without a hearty dose of lemon and tartar sauce, I could barely taste anything other than grease and flour. And tilapia? Not the best choice for a fish fry, as it can get very mushy very quickly. It's also not very flaky, and was overall just a poor choice for fish & chips. The chips, however, were seasoned quite well, and I must say, they were the best part of the dish. Throw some malt vinegar or ketchup on top, and it saved the entire dish.
There's something to be said about service excellence. And although I don't usually take service into account when I rate restaurants, this was egregious enough to warrant something to be written. Our dining experience was dotted with little blips of poor service throughout, and the whopper at the end just pushed us over the edge. I won't go into the nitty gritty, but when we looked at our check at the end of the meal, we noticed that the server added 40% tip to our bill. That's four-zero. When one of our party went to talk to the server about it, he was very defensive about what happened, fumbling back and forth between excuses that either made no sense or became contradictory the more he talked.
A mistake is understandable, and a server with 25 years of self-proclaimed experience knows that. He knows that people know that mistakes happen, and are willing to look past it if you admit that you made a mistake and apologize. When you don't, become defensive, and continue to make up excuses for your actions, that's when people lose their trust and start to think that maybe you did just try to gouge 40% of our bill to make yourself some extra money off some unsuspecting patrons.
For providing mediocre British pub fare with astoundingly sketchy service, The Queen Vic earns 2 Cherries.