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photo 2Ima­gine life without fer­ment­a­tion. We would have no bread; no wine or beer; no cheese, pickles or salami. For some years now fer­ment­a­tion has been slowly bub­bling away as a food­ie trend, often with health-fet­ish­ist over­tones, focus­ing on sauerkraut, kim­chi and oth­er means of cre­at­ively rot­ting veget­ables, grains and beans. It was to be expec­ted that a res­taur­ant spe­cial­ising in fer­ment­a­tion would even­tu­ally arrive in Wel­ling­ton. What was less expec­ted was that it would take the form of a Brit­ish-themed pub in Petone.

Queen of Jackson’s web­site prom­ised a “nos­tal­gic upbeat Lon­don exper­i­ence”, but the inspir­a­tion is appar­ently more Shored­itch hip­ster hangout than cock­ney booz­er. Nev­er­the­less, it seems more a play­ful tour­ist rendi­tion of that than some­where you’d bump into Nath­an Bar­ley. It’s shiny, dark and slick, with jokey touches such as bowl­er hat lamp­shades, a Sid and Nancy mur­al, and a long table done up like a Mono­poly board with Petone street names. And of course, their crown logo lends itself to the inev­it­able Keep Calm And Over­use A Meme posters.

Des­pite racks of pickles above the bar, the Brit­ish pub theme doesn’t extend to the menu, which they describe online as “New Amer­ic­an” or “Inter­na­tion­al”. Influ­ences come from across Europe and Asia, with some bold touches involving raw ingredi­ents (steak tartare with quail egg), offal (smoked beef tongue, crispy pig tail) and the afore­men­tioned fer­ment­a­tion and pick­ling. This included pickled veget­ables, fer­men­ted chilli may­on­naise, and less obvi­ous examples such as pas­trami sliders (I had not real­ised that mak­ing pas­trami involved a form of fermentation).

That was among the most suc­cess­ful dishes, with the addi­tion of Swiss cheese, gher­kin and sauerkraut mak­ing for a pleas­ant hybrid between sliders and Reubens. Smoked kahawai hash was also a nice mix of bold and subtle fla­vours, with pickled mus­tard seed to enliven the kūmara, and while 62-degree eggs are not to everyone’s taste, the silky, barely cooked tex­ture floated through the dish and tied it all togeth­er. A slaw of white cab­bage, almond and rutabaga was crunchy and fresh.

Not everything was so well bal­anced. The fig chut­ney and blue cheese on our bruschetta starters were deli­cious, but so over­power­ing that the Iberico ham barely registered on the pal­ate. The chopped capers and cor­nichons with the steak tartare were so vin­eg­ary that the subtle fla­vour of raw rump steak had little chance. Many dishes shared com­mon ingredi­ents, such as con­fit potato and bacon bits that popped up at least twice. It makes prac­tic­al sense, but with a shar­ing plate menu, it reduced the variety.

The food also looked beau­ti­ful, in a hand-spun, homely way, served on updated ver­sions of the sort of pot­tery your eccent­ric uncle might have thrown in the 1970s. Ser­vice was chirpy and mostly effi­cient, though being tucked away on the mezzan­ine meant that it was hard to get atten­tion at times.

It seems churl­ish to cri­ti­cise a res­taur­ant for con­cep­tu­al incon­sist­ency: there’s noth­ing inher­ently wrong with eclecticism, and vari­ety is often desir­able for cas­u­al din­ing. But when a theme is pro­moted this enthu­si­ast­ic­ally, it should be fol­lowed through. There’s a fine bal­ance between mash­ing up and mess­ing up, and Queen of Jack­son some­times crossed the line into con­fu­sion. How­ever, if you’re just after a lively bar serving decent beer and wine, and tasty food with a dif­fer­ence, you will enjoy it.



Address: 181 Jack­son Street, Petone

Phone: 04 280 9374

Cost: Starters and sides $7–9.50; lar­ger plates $10–16

Open: Wed–Thu 4pm–11pm, Fri–Sat 11am–1am, Sun 11am–11pm

Food: Inter­na­tion­al

Drink: Founders 1946 Pils­ner $9; Three Paddles Riesling $9/glass, $37/bottle[/warning]


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