ST. PETERSBURG -
You know dinner is going to be something different when there are pink Christmas trees and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, upbeat house and club music pumping through the speakers and, on the patio, outdoor loungers as big as beds – complete with sheets and blankets, decorative pillows and curtained canopies.
The Queens Head Eurobar and Restaurant in St. Petersburg offers a modern, kitschy take on the British pub, along with a European menu inspired by seasonal American ingredients. Alongside pub classics such as fish and chips, bangers and mash and shepherds pie, you'll find pumpkin risotto, crispy cauliflower cheddar croquettes, seared salmon – even charred tofu as a protein option.
Having been tipped off about the cauliflower croquettes, we started there. The dish comes with enough to share, along with a sriracha aioli. The croquettes are crispy on the outside, soft and creamy inside, slightly salty and spicy. In other words: They're perfect. Each bite delivered a well-balanced mouthful of crunch, creaminess and heat, and the real marvel here is that you forget you're eating a vegetable. Even the 11-year-old liked them.
The pumpkin risotto is accompanied by creamy and delicate pieces of goat cheese, a tangy balsamic reduction and arugula. The risotto itself is perfectly cooked, but you want a bit of everything in every bite. The balsamic reduction adds a vibrant flavor, and the arugula provides a nice lift – and just the slightest crunch. This one isn't to be missed.
The salmon is a thick cut, with a nice crust, a little crispy on the outside but not overdone inside. The fish is served with a caper cream sauce and potatoes that are charred on the end, giving them a more rustic flavor.
The salad, ordered with shrimp, came with a good mix of components to complement the greens: five large shrimp, pecans, artichokes, cherry tomatoes and, normally, dried cherries, though our 11-year-old elected to skip those. The salad was a hit – and thank God for that, because the restaurant was out of key components for the only other salad on the menu.
Eating salad for dinner leaves room for dessert, and we were eager to try an English favorite that's tough to find in the States: sticky toffee pudding. Traditionally, sticky toffee pudding is a sponge cake filled with finely chopped dates, nuts and fruit, covered in a toffee sauce and either a custard or heavy cream.
The Queens Head breaks with tradition – co-owner Darren Conner said he serves the version his mum used to make, which is thick and creamy, with the toffee sauce in it and topped with whipped cream. Perhaps because the dessert has a smooth texture or because you don't get fruit and nuts in every bite, it makes you wonder "what is that?" when you feel something stuck in your teeth. This is a rich and decadent dessert, with a killer flavor; so you want to just plow right through it. But finding those stray pieces of I-don't-know-what made me wish I could try the classic version of sticky toffee pudding.
But don't let that stand between you and the Queens Head's inventive menu and whimsical-yet-cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Oh, and on a chilly night, make sure to grab a glass of wine and a couch in front of the fire pit outside.
QUEENS HEAD EUROBAR AND RESTAURANT
Bottom Line: Delicious and elegant food and atmosphere
Where: 2501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg
Hours: 4:30 p.m. to midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, noon to 3 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Credit Cards: All major
Children's Menu: No
Alcohol: Beer and wine
Wheelchair Access: Yes
Price: $15-19 dinner entrees
Call: (727) 498-8584