Lunch at the Almeida Restaurant, Islington
I know the Almeida Theatre and I’ve even been there a few times. But, I wasn’t aware of the eponymous restaurant on the opposite side of the road. My excuse, that the entrance to the Almeida Restaurant is quite discrete, a Mrs Tiggywinkle door in a row of stucco fronted London town houses. So an invitation to review was welcome. And, while there are a few very good restaurants in Islington, those I’ve visited have tend to be slightly off main-stream, with Trullo perhaps the closest to the sort of place I could go for a business meeting.
Walk into the Almeida to a sea of white table linen and classic décor. There’s a bar area with a rather charming private dining area set behind. And an open kitchen gives the whole place a contemporary feel. On a weekday lunchtime, the restaurant was quiet but by no means empty and I imagine that when there are shows at the theatre it is considerably livelier.
Our amuse bouche of smoked eel came with a horseradish cream, thinly sliced radish, cucumber and fresh herbs. Beautifully presented with a notably tender and delicately flavoured piece of smoked eel, something which can so easily be rubbery but in this case was perfect.
The menu is written up daily and has a strong seasonal flavour. My Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle cream was delightful with a smooth artichoke puree topped with a whipped creamy truffle froth.
My dining companion chose the Almeida charcuterie, often a good test of the basic ingredients used in a restaurant. I think he was particularly impressed with the small jar of chicken liver parfait but I wish we’d asked about the different meats on the platter sourced from Picco Salumi, an Islington based artisan cured meat producer, all of which were good, but none of which I could have named!
For the main course I chose Denham Estate venison which arrived with tiny heritage beetroot and savoy cabbage, dressed in a rich sauce. Very tender and perfectly cooked, I’d be inclined to order this again if I returned.
My dining companion picked the roast cornfed chicken which was listed as served with white polenta, cavola nero and wild mushrooms. I suspect a different green vegetable (maybe escarole) had been used, but there were no complaints from across the table, so whatever it was must have been good.
We struggled a little to find a suitable wine and in the end the helpful restaurant manager suggested a very pleasant bottle of Chateau Lanessan 1997 which paired as well with my companion’s chicken as with my venison. We also chatted with him about the special dinners listed on a card on the table. I’m particularly impressed with the Royal Tokaji Wine Dinner planned for 6th March, where you can have a four course menu with matched wines and an introduction to Royal Tokaji for £47.50 per head. Although I am no wine expert, it’s definitely worth finding out more about these very special Hungarian wines. And, the dinner itself is exceptionally good value!
My warm poached Lincolnshire rhubarb with apple walnut crunch and rhubarb ice cream was delicious and a perfect end to the meal. My companion’s dish of star anise burnt cream, caramelised Satsuma and cocoa mousse was a Miro like work of art, and one that was heavily guarded so that I didn’t get to taste.
I really enjoyed lunch. Seasonal, well cooked and beautifully presented food in a classic, contemporary surrounding, The Almeida, part of the D&D group, is worth a visit. I will be keeping an eye open to find out more about their monthly wine dinners and master class events. They offer excellent value whether you are interested in learning more about wine or simply want to enjoy good food with matched wines.
The Almeida Restaurant
30 Almeida Street
London N1 1AD