High in the Custerdome
It’s official - 2007 is the year of the Gastropub. A veritable slew of them have already opened or reopened we’re only in March. And there’s more to come.
These are different beasts now: the ante’s been upped. Instead of the sloppy cooking and presentation that characterised much of the first wave, the 21st century GP gives us impeccably sourced ingredients, better chefs and more refined cooking.
One of the latest is The Albion whose chef, so the blurb says, trained under a certain famous chef. Why they’d want to associate themselves with someone who hasn’t cooked for years, owns a string of crappy restaurants and is obviously barking escapes me but there you go. After my meal there the other night the jury’s still out on whether having trained under someone who thinks he’s the British version of Don Vito Corleone has done him any good.
The menu reads well, full of interesting stuff you’d want to eat but probably wouldn’t prepare at home especially after a hard days graft. Soon after being seated I was brought some toothsome St John Sourdough which was probably the best bread I’ve had in a restaurant in ages.
The food itself was a bit of a mixed bag but generally good. A starter of Fried Brawn was nice and meaty and came with a suitably piquant tartare sauce. The breadcrumbed coating was greaseless and provided a nice counterpoint but at the expense of detracting from the filling. A common fault with most breadcrumbed comestibles.
The Georgian style dining room and dim lighting had had its effect on me and inspired me to the Brobdingnagian option of the Roast Rump of Beef. Served whole, this was a good piece of meat: nicely browned on the outside, rare within. A suitably sharp carving knife and large fork were supplied, a la Anchor and Hope for portionage. This is really a dish for two or three, not because of the size of the joint but because as a lean cut it quickly becomes a bit samey and two-thirds of the way through my taste buds were craving fat. This was somewhat ameliorated by the anchovy butter.
The ubiquitous triple cooked chips were present and very correct. In fact, these were closer to mini-roasties but unlike the also-ubiquitous-and-not-very-good fat chips these were lovely and crunchy with a fluffy interior. Excellent. The advertised watercress would have been a better foil than the supplied leaves but from the one taste I had they had been properly dressed.
With Baby Porky and Larry on the menu and the promise of BBQ in the garden this might be a good place to come for your big meat fix. But don’t come for the puds which were the least interesting part of the menu. I was going to go for the Ice Cream until the waiter ‘fessed up that it was Häagen-Dazs. I mean, come on, how difficult would it be to get an ice cream maker and roll your own ? I got some HD action anyway with the Rhubarb Crumble which came with that odd Cap’n Crunch topping that had appeared a couple of hour before. Putting it in a ramekin wasn’t too clever either as the crumble scattered as I attempted to get to the rhubarb. Oh well.
With a few exceptions GPs tended to be non-destinational. The cooking and setting didn’t justify a long journey. But things have changed. A bit. If I lived in West London (and each night I pray to my own particular God that I never have to) I probably wouldn’t undertake the traipse to The Albion. But given the paucity of good places to eat on Upper Street (and now Angel Mangal has gone, probably no good places to eat) it provides a decent alternative for the area and serves as a good neighbourhood joint. Which is all one could really ask for. Roll on Summer.