Coda, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington:
Beloved home of the Proms, the Royal Albert Hall is famously known as a venue for music, from classical to jazz to rock, ballet, as well as for the odd comedy evening, and charity galas. It’s a building that was built to impress with all the self-assurance and swagger of the newly industrialised Victorians, and of course is an homage from Queen Victoria to the love of her life – Prince Albert.
Despite being a born-and-bred Londoner, I have to confess that I had only been inside once previously, and that was to a gig by a band called the Wombats about 6-7 years ago (they seem to have slid into oblivion since) when we shared a box with a great view of the stage. It didn’t occur to me to find out about the food offering on that occasion, so it was really intriguing to be asked to review Coda, a restaurant tucked away inside and only accessible to ticket holders.
As we weren’t attending the Proms, we entered the building via the stage door, feeling a little like the stars of the show, and were delighted to find such an elegant and pretty space on the third floor. The rest of the diners were on a schedule to eat and be in their seats on time. We were fortunate to be able to take our time and really enjoy the views, the conversation, wine, and of course the food! The photos shown above were taken after the other diners had left when we were able to linger and enjoy our coffees. When performances have intervals, diners are able to request that they are served their desserts and coffee in the interval.
There were plenty of staff, all of whom were very professional and attentive to our every need. A glass of sparkling wine arrived quickly whilst we perused the menu. I opted for grilled peach with Gloucestershire goat’s curd and Iberico ham, served cold as a pretty salad. I really enjoyed this, and will happily try making this myself at home; I think I will add a sprinkling of chilli flakes though just to give it a tiny kick! Alex opted for the cured Scottish salmon with pickled cucumber and horseradish; although perfectly executed and plated, he found it a little bland, perhaps needing a touch more of the horseradish.
Coda’s food is modern British, using seasonal ingredients, cooked simply but well. I love fish and was thrilled to see that for my main course out of six possible choices, three were fish based. I suspect that this is not just to show off the wonderful fish available in Britain, but also due to the fact that it doesn’t require a long cooking time. Where timing is this important to the customer, the chef must be able to prepare beautiful food, but with no margin for running behind. I opted for the seared stone bass with saffron potatoes, braised fennel, samphire and lobster mayonnaise. I was in heaven; it was delicate, light, pretty, and perfectly cooked.
Alex was in the mood for something meatier and chose the roast corn-fed chicken with Jerusalem artichokes and wild mushrooms. This was an earthy and robust plateful that was declared ‘very tasty’.
I’m not actually the biggest fan of dessert, I frequently opt for cheese instead, but I can never turn down summer pudding. This one didn’t disappoint, it had just the right degree of tartness and avoided having too much bread which can happen when made individually. A quintessentially British creation, which the rest of the world doesn’t seem to have discovered, using British berries summer pudding always reminds me of ‘home’.
Staff were very keen to show off the mango and passion fruit cheesecake, which they promised would be a lovely surprise. If you remember Jerry from Tom & Jerry and his love of cheese you will see instantly where the inspiration came from! It tasted every bit as good as Jerry would have wanted.
A 2-course menu costs £35 and 3 courses £40. Whilst the Proms are on this includes a glass of sparkling wine. Eating at Coda would certainly add to a special night out.
For more information about Coda check the Royal Albert Hall website