Note: Mary Queen of Scots closed in April 2012 after an 18-month run.
Mary Queen of Scots opened a year ago in the former Allen & Delancey space. It’s the second Scottish-themed restaurant from the Highlands team. Early reports weren’t encouraging, and most of the pro critics didn’t review it.
The concept, I have to admit, was unwise: French cuisine through a Scottish lens, or something like that, inspired by the fact that the historic Mary was a queen of both France and Scotland.
The original idea has quietly been pushed to the side. Uninspired dishes like pasta carbonara, steak frites, moules frites, and beet salad, no longer appear on the menu. Prices are moderate, with most appetizers below $15 and most entrées below $25. (The most expensive item is a Venison Wellington, $27.)
The décor is East Village chic with a cold splash of Scotland in the form of tartan plaid banquettes. The bar, in the back of the restaurant, is worth exploring. Cocktails are $11–13 a pop, and they transfer the tab to the table. I can vouch for the Respect Your Elders ($12), with Plymouth Gin, Rosemary Syrup, Lemon Juice, Angostura and Lavender Bitters.
There is nothing complicated about Chilled Asparagus ($11; above left) with thyme-parmesan crumbs and hollandaise sauce, but it’s the ideal summer appetizer. Seared Tuna ($20; above right) with haricots verts, a quail egg, and worcestershire-red onion dressing, was quite good, and clearly a step above the less ambitious salads offered on earlier menus.
Roast Lamb Sirloin ($26; above left) with heirloom carrot salad, coconut yoghurt, and mint jelly, was less impressive. There wasn’t much of the lamb, and although tender, it was a shade over-cooked. We don’t usually order a side dish, but when we saw the Chips & Curry Sauce come out of the kitchen ($5; above right), we had to have some. Crisp and tangy, they’re a treat.
The wine list of about 30 bottles is a shade more expensive than it ought to be, in relation to the food. It could use a few more options under $50. The 2008 Francoise & Denis Clair Cote-de-Beaune, decent but not spectacular, was priced at $48, or about 228 percent of retail, which is a bit dear. There is, as you’d expect, an abundant selection of whiskies, though we didn’t have any.
Typical of many Lower East Side places, other than the most popular ones, the restaurant was nearly empty at 7:30 p.m. on a Thursday evening, although the front room had filled up by 9:00 p.m. (I didn’t check the back). Service was attentive and thorough. On this showing, Mary Queen of Scots is a more comfortable and polished restaurant than Highlands, though your mileage may vary.
Mary Queen of Scots (115 Allen Street near Delancey Street, Lower East Side)