Yes, Your Majesty, British food has come to Little Patuxent Parkway.
The Brits, represented by Union Jack's, have taken over space once occupied by Italians, the departed restaurant That's Amore, and are serving up bangers, cottage pies and pints next to The Mall in Columbia.
This operation, which opened about six weeks ago, is a sprawling gastro-pub. The bar has room for 40; the patio, which on pleasant days offers a sunny view of the Little Patuxent Parkway, seats 120. The whole restaurant accommodates close to 400, I was told.
The indoor pub dining area, which is dark and woody, features an overblown representation of Big Ben —the clock, not the quarterback — and a plethora of flat-screen televisions. Your quiet, quaint local London pub, this is not. Think more Austin Powers working the happy-hour crowd than Rumpole sipping wine at Pommeroy's.
This particular British invasion came by way of the Washington suburbs, where there are two other Union Jack's, one in Bethesda and one in Arlington, Va..
While the theme of Union Jack's is decidedly God Save the Queen, the menu also has plenty of God Bless America. There is pizza, filet mignon, jumbo crab cakes and a cheeseburger that, in a bow to England, offers Stilton blue as one of the cheeses.
I was drawn to the section of the menu called "traditions," which featured British fare.
I had fond memories of a cottage pie, dark and flavorful and filled with meat of unknown origin, that I devoured a few years ago during a visit to the Perch pub in Oxford, England. So I ordered Union Jack's Iron Skillet Cottage Pie ($13). There were peas in this pie, a sure sign of British fare. Yet this mixture of ground beef and vegetables topped with a mashed potato and cheddar cheese crust was much milder than the pie I enjoyed across the pond.
So too with the grilled banger ($9), a pork sausage cooked with Newcastle Ale and onions. It was not offensive, but not very exciting.
The fish and chips ($14) featured beer-battered pieces of fried fish that were acceptable, yet like the faux newspaper they were wrapped in, they seemed to lack authenticity. The Stilton and sirloin salad ($14) was done well, an appetizing mixture of greens and perfectly cooked medallions of beef. The spinach and artichoke dip ($9) was green and warm, if a bit dull.
Of the desserts — a warm banana bread pudding ($6), a sweet toffee pie called a banoffi ($7) and an English trifle ($7) — the trifle was the clear winner, with pleasing lemon and fruit flavors.
Service here, provided by good-looking American youths, was quite good. A waiter steered me away from Jack's ale, actually a Michelob product, and toward the locally made Oliver's Ironman Pale Ale ($6), an English-style brew. Good call. The barmaids were friendly and attentive.
Alas, none of these youthful servers recalled when Queen Elizabeth II visited Baltimore in 1991. She watched three innings of an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium, shook hands with the players and gave the crowd the royal wave. Now, if Her Majesty should return, she could drop by Union Jack's for a pint and a banger.
10400 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
daily for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m- 1 a.m. Sunday- Thursday; 11 a.m- 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
$9-$11, Entrees: $9-$27
Visa, MC, Discover, Amex
[Scale: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭; Good: ✭✭✭; Fair or uneven: ✭✭; Poor: ✭]