The London “High Class Martini Tour”

Note: the full set of high-resolution photos from this escapade is available on my Flickr account

What about Bob?

It started innocently enough, but it didn’t quite end that way.

I’m not sure I expected it to, though. After all, when @jezmd and I hatched the idea of doing a “High Class Martini Tour” around some of London’s more noteworthy cocktail caverns, it could only end in loss of sobriety and, quite possibly, much more.

I should start by saying that I’m not much of a drinker of spirits – wine has always been more my thing – but as of late, I’ve been trying to get my head, and my lips, around a range of liquors and cocktails that I wouldn’t have even been able to sniff five years ago without recoiling violently. I have a newfound appreciation of the nuances of single malt whiskeys (thanks in part to the resource otherwise known as @cowfish and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, also on twitter as @SMWSLondon), as well as gin and vodka in their various guises.

Anyway, @jezmd and I started bandying around ideas about this theoretical tour in the misty vapour of aptly named twitosphere and pretty soon a few others expressed interest. In the end, it was the two of us plus @chrispople, @essexeating and @vachonline who set quite an ambitious plan. Google walking maps were devised (you presumably already know I’m a geek), the stops of this whistle-stop tour were debated, and we finally arrived at that accommodating avenue called Consensus.

Yes, I clearly have too much time on my hands

The plan was simple enough: we would partake in a martini at as many of the following places as possible, and in the most logical order so as not to waste valuable time walking (and not drinking). Our hit list: Bob Bob Ricard would be our starting point (as it also seemed a good place to get a bit of sustenance before embarking on our boozy afternoon), then we would visit Quo Vadis’ private members club, the downstairs bar at HIX Soho, the upstairs bar at Rules (where spirit wizard Brian Silva resides), the civilized seats at Dukes Bar (overseen by the incomparable Alessandro Palazzi), and the rather recently revitalized surroundings at The Bar at The Connaught (whose Italian-led team has recently picked up some major awards in the land of liquids). LAB bar was also thrown around as an idea, but we thought there might be too many places to visit in one afternoon, so it was nixed. We realized this wasn’t totally comprehensive, but c’mon, it was pretty comprehensive for ONE AFTERNOON! 🙂

My golden ticket for a WUI (walking under the influence) around London?

The afternoon started off with yours truly meandering quietly through Golden Square, just across the street from our first target. Strangely enough, I spotted a golden elephant in the golden square and thought this auspicious moment worthy of a snap. But fare forward, travellers – no time for chit-chat.

Martini o’clock

I was late, I was late, for a very important date. Leonid (aka Bob [Bob]) had been kind enough to offer us a table at his deluxe deco diner, and had also generously offered to make our stay somewhat less of a (financial) burden, consummate host he is. Therefore we not only partook in some Bob-tinis, but also ate some Bob-burgers (but no Bobcorn, mind you – and that one’s actually on the menu).

We knew for whom this bell was tolling

Thus, we ordered our first round of drinks for the afternoon. Well, actually a few guys ordered a pre-first round of drinks, if memory serves me right.

Yes, that’s what we were there for

Chris had his eye on a perfectly translucent Bloody Mary (perhaps Bob let the vampires attack it before serving?), which I got a sip of and was…pardon me, I can’t help myself…bloody fantastic.

I had forgotten that they gave us some olives – but clearly that Martini ain’t clear (must have forgotten to photograph the one that was sans rouge)

I seem to recall Chris explaining that they exact the pure juices of tomatoes and let them extract overnight, or some such shenanigans – but the result is shockingly good, both for the shock of the lack of color and for the taste.

Cucumber Martini at Bob Bob Ricard

For my part, I ordered the Cucumber Martini, which is made of Hendrick’s gin (one of my widely available favorites), cucumber and elderflower cordial. It was okay, but I thought it a tad too sweet. I much prefer the rendition over at Dukes Bar, which is better balanced in my humble opinion.

Fresh Apple Martini at Bob Bob Ricard

Others opted for the slightly more feminine allure of the Fresh Apple Martini, composed of apple, Manzana Verde, Zubrowka, apple juice and lemon juice. This was better and I was sorry I hadn’t ordered it. But that was not such a big deal, because food was on its way.

The BBR Hamburger with a Single Slice of Kraft Singles

Unlike so many other places around London, which publicly extol and actively market the virtues of their beef patties, trimmings and buns, Bob had kept his burger more on the down-low. I can’t say I was surprised that it was good – most things I’ve sampled at BBR are pretty well executed and flavourful – but it was better than I had expected by a good mark. In fact, it was one of the better burgers I’ve had in London (it would probably make the top-5). Plus I love that he somehow sources Kraft Singles – which he said can sometimes be difficult – because it has that extra pang of nostalgia for me. At least he doesn’t tell you the ingredients of what’s in that nearly neon yellow-orange maniacal miracle of molecular mechanics, but you can find out here if you care to.

So we drank pretty well and ate even better and, with our bellies full, we were feeling confident in our ability to beat the odds and drag ourselves to all of the selected destinations. Luckily, pit stop number two was only a few steps away…

I may have been the only one slightly disappointed that I hadn’t pushed the button I usually do when sitting in a booth at BBR

Bob Bob Ricard on Urbanspoon

Exploring down under

Yes, we arrived at HIX Soho a few minutes later, and some eager beavers were already checking in on foursquare – as you can see from the image below (alright, alright, so was I, so was I).

Some geek ensuring he checks in first on foursquare

A neon sign instructed us that the bar was downstairs. By the way, I think the neon artist in question is the same one who does the rather funky ones that adorn Bloomberg’s London offices.

The arrow told us to go down below

Once in the engine room, we lined up along the empty bar, ready to get this party started properly – no food this time, you see. I had never been here before and, while I liked the way the upstairs dining room looked (based on my 5 second peek-a-boo), I did find the downstairs bar slightly odd. It felt as muddled as one of their premium drinks: mostly modern with monotonous white tiled floor, glass walls, stainless steel bar, fairly random slimline chairs, and then a token gesture of warmth layered on top in the form of a pool table (too squeaky clean), an oriental area rug (which just looked odd), a few soft chairs, an old-looking leather couch and various other elements…suffice to say, it just wasn’t working for me. But hey, we were there for drinks, not décor, so we made our orders with the very professional looking barman.

Our drinks being individually prepared

Said barman began preparing our beverages of choice. He was very silent and exacting, and took a very long time with them – so I was expecting something out of the ordinary.

Each was served in its own unique crystal glass

One nice touch at HIX Soho is that they serve each drink in its own unique vintage crystal glass. They also chill the rest of the drink in its own silver vessel, which lies submerged in a glass of ice.

Vodka Martini at HIX Soho

I generally prefer vodka martinis so that’s what I ordered. I thought it was okay, but it was simply too warm (despite all the ice?!), and therefore didn’t work for me. The flavours weren’t bad but the temperature killed it.

Dirty Martini at HIX Soho

@Vachonline decided to get dirty on us, and his choice of drink is pictured above – I recall that he liked it but didn’t love it…and that seemed to be the general consensus here.

An even number of odd quail’s eggs

Some brave cowboy had decided to order some of their quail’s egg shooters – we had heard they were good (or strange, I can’t remember), and were therefore intrigued. Composed of the eggs (of course!), streaky bacon, chives and sea salt, they were certainly odd and not completely appetizing for some reason. If you want more details (I don’t), you can see @gourmetraveller’s post on them, and other Hix creations.

We left on that savory note and wound our way to the next station on the Tipple Express train.

Hix on Urbanspoon

Cocktails fit for a duke

Our plans to visit another Soho haunt were scuppered as we weren’t able to wangle bar seats at Quo Vadis’ private members club. So we scratched that from our rapidly deteriorating memories and marched on to the posh backstreets of Mayfair. I was informally leading the gang to my own favourite martini hideaway, the serene surroundings of historic Dukes Bar.

Elephants on parade

As we passed by another surreal looking elephant – okay, it probably didn’t look that surreal, but I had a fair amount of ‘spirit’ in me by that point – I couldn’t help remember the slightly terrifying scene from Dumbo (well, it is terrifying when you’re 5 years old!) where the pink elephants are on parade – was I that little pink elephant leading the others?

“Look out! Look out!
Pink elephants on parade
Here they come!
Hippety hoppety
They’re here and there
Pink elephants ev’rywhere
Look out! Look out!”

The lyrics seemed apt to say the least…

We were heading into a place whose denizens are mainly hedge fund managers and rich American businessmen. Yes, this is the place that supposedly inspired Ian Fleming for his “shaken not stirred” martinis, and they are quite simply the best I’ve had to-date, probably aided by the fact that they are served by the legend that is Alessandro Palazzi, my favourite barman in the world. So you can see I a biased…but not without good reason. (For more details, you can see a previous post on the place here).

Luckily we had booked (even though you can’t technically)

I had pre-warned Alessandro that we were coming and he assured me he would “take care of you boys”, so I knew all would be well, and all manner of things would be well.

Dukes, it’s like really old n’ stuff

While this trolley doesn’t actually hail from 1908, the bar does, and they are famous for preparing your drinks in front of your eyes as you sit and marvel at their modest magicians.

The great big green olives

We were welcomed with the ginormous green Italian olives I have come to love, and also some silver bowls of salty crunchy things that taste great and make you want to drink more. These are bottomless and come included in the (rather steep) price of a martini at Dukes. But let me tell you – and listen well – one Dukes martini will do more damage than two at most other places.

The glasses were frozen

The Dukes martini is actually very simple in its conception, as are many of the best things in life. It all starts with frozen glasses. The vodka and gin are also frozen at a special constant temperature, ice is never used, and the martinis are never shaken (or stirred for that matter).

Alessandro got to work

As we nestled into our new surroundings, Alessandro entertained the gang with anecdote after anecdote about his favourite cocktails, a few of his secrets, his travels and other manner of things.

A little bit of Polish vodka here

The vodka they normally use for their martinis is Potocki, which comes from Poland and purely expresses the charm and full flavor of that country’s rye.

A little bit of discontinued Crown Jewel there

For gin, they often recommend Beefeater’s Crown Jewell which, as I understand it, has sadly gone out of production. It is known for its intense aromas and also its very high ABV.

And then some shaving of orange peels

Some of us were starting off with the Dukes rendition of Ian Fleming’s Classic Vesper, which is made from the aforementioned gin and vodka, plus Angostura Bitters and Lillet. There are some secrets to this original version, but I suggest you get yourself down to Dukes and discover what they are for yourself as there are many (and generally not very good) pretenders to the throne.

And artful placing

Alessandro put the final touches on our Vespers and we were off.

The unveiling of my new favourite gin

As we were having such an amazingly relaxed and enjoyable time, we went for a second round of drinks. For this, Alessandro suggested the gin lovers in the group we taste one of his favorite newer gins to hit the scene. It’s called Sacred Gin and it is distilled by a guy named Ian Hart in Highgate (Norf London) in his own micro-distillery that is housed within, well, his house. I won’t say much, but I thought it was phenomenal. You should really read some of the articles on his website as it is quite an interesting story.

Gin it goes...

Anyway, the next round of drinks was poured and we were ready for double trouble…

And there it stayed (for a minute)

There was a mish-mash of martinis and other drinks abounding:

One pretty lady

One standout Old Fashioned

Essex drinking (and not eating for once)

Painting the town, well Mayfair, red

After another hour or so of leisurely conversation and the revelation of a few of Alessandro’s secrets (see below), we decided we should be making our way, even though I don’t think most of us thought getting up was a very good idea at this stage.

We had moved from Bob Bob Ricard to Bob’s Bitters (a secret bar cabinet weapon)

In my opinion, the drinks were – as usual – little short of astounding. They had wonderful balance, finesse and beauty, and I think most of my companions would agree (if not, speak up). We asked Alessandro who he reckoned were the best bar men (and women) in London, and after naming Brian Silva (who inspires even him), we really thought we should pay Rules’ bar a visit. But sadly Brian wasn’t there on that day, so we opted to traipse over to Alessandro’s other recommendation, “The Bar” at The Connaught. As he is quite friendly with them (hey, they’re also Italian), he called ahead for us and made sure we had a seat…he also asked them to “take care of these boys”…you’ve gotta love this guy!

Dukes Bar on Urbanspoon

Posh Italians with white gloves

You have to admit, the UK does have the strangest signs in the world

As we crisscrossed the fine streets of Mayfair, we minded the sign on the side of the pedestrian crossing leading up to The Connaught – what is it with this country and its road signs? How could a pedestrian need to mind a ‘low tree’, and it wasn’t even low to begin with?!

We were seated in the middle of the poshest of bars, a little the worse for wear

Okay, this bar was, in a word, bling. This is where you’d take a girl for a drink if you wanted to impress. Somehow we didn’t quite fit in, but we weren’t in a state to care about that at this point. We just wanted our drinks.

Glitzy, eh?

Yeah, bling.

Amuse Bouche cocktails – now that is well classy

The Connaught was so refined, we even got a liquid amuse bouche before our drinks were prepared. I vaguely remember it was fruity, refreshing, nice and not alcoholic. The munchies were also good, sweet roasted nuts and black pitted olives, although no way as good as those monster green Italian olives at Dukes.

What am I going to do with these lowlifes?

The exceedingly professional staff must have been in quite a quandary with our motley crew occupying prime position at the dinky round table smack-bang in front of the bar.

I know, I’ll poison them with my medical-looking remedies

Therefore, they decided to poison us. But at least they had the good humor to let us choose our particular poisons. I seem to remember for some inexplicable reason that I went for grapefruit and vanilla…and I’m meant to have a palate.

And I’ll throw in some of these too, just for good measure

At The Connaught, they shunned Bob in favour of these bitter bottles.

The tiniest dose will take care of these squatters, let me just put on my white gloves...

They do take their drinks very seriously, and even donned white gloves as they carefully measured out the dosages.

I can cover it all up with this high falootin’ gin

They also seem to really like Tanqueray No. Ten, but I didn’t have it as I opted for vodka.

Then some vermouth

They then fiddled around with the other necessary components.

And Vodka for that weird-looking American guy who keeps taking photos of me (don’t you hate tourists?)

Adding vodka for me.

Yes, I’ll give them a show all right

Then a bit of a high-wire show.

Our Connaught concoctions

I didn’t get a great shot of the drinks, but they were very pretty.

They even gave us the recipe card (poison omitted of course)

In a nice (if slightly corny) gesture, they let us take a recipe card home with us so we could try it for ourselves.

As I said, they certainly take their cocktails seriously here, but somehow it was lacking in soul – it was almost as if they were trying to show off how good they were, rather than allowing their guests to discover this slowly for themselves over the course of a few drinks – which I much prefer.

Bar at the Connaught on Urbanspoon

After paying up, we stumbled out back onto the surprisingly bright streets of Mayfair and headed our own ways , vowing to organize a “High Class Old Fashioned Tour”, on the back of the outstanding Old Fashioned(s) served up at Dukes.

As Mr. T said, “I pity the fool[s].” 🙂

Long live these libations, I say.

York & Albany: Great Food, Fantastic Value – Long Live the Empire

York & Albany
127-129 Parkway
London NW1 7PS
Online Reservations

Starters from £7-9, Mains from £15-24, Desserts £6

Sumptuous surroundings, excellent service and simple yet elegant food with precise flavors and solid execution. The York & Albany is a good all-rounder and makes a great venue for sipping some excellent cocktails and/or having a flavorful and well-prepared meal.

Sumptuous surroundings, excellent service and simple yet elegant food with precise flavors and solid execution. The York & Albany is a good all-rounder and makes a great venue for sipping some excellent cocktails and/or having a flavorful and well-prepared meal

In town with the in-laws

My wife’s brother and his 11-year old son visited us two weekends ago. We wanted to take them out for a nice dinner on Saturday night and, as he runs a bar in France and loves English pubs, Mrs. LF said we should try to go for something pubby. Well, I wanted to make sure the food was good too, besides having a pub-like atmosphere, so came up with the idea of the Ramsay Empire (RE) joint venture with prodigal daughter Angela Hartnett: the York & Albany (Y&A), on the Northeast corner of Regent’s park, on the way up to Camden Town. I had never been there before, but had driven by a number of times since it opened its doors. I am a fan of Mrs. Hartnett, and have enjoyed her menu (if not her own personal cooking) at her Cielo restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida, where the food was as spectacular as the views of the ocean. I did my homework on Y&A too, where Head Chef is Colin Buchan (though Mrs. Hartnett is sometimes present), and couldn’t find a bad review from the professionals, so thought it would be a good bet.

Not really a pub after all

We had been walking for much of the rare sunny afternoon – along the Grand Union Canal and then around Primrose Hill – so had worked up an appetite by the time we reached our evening destination. We had a table reserved for 7.30pm, but turned up a bit early to have some drinks beforehand in the bar. I noticed as we walked up to the venue they had finally gotten an awning fitted, a nice purple one upon which the name of the place was clearly branded. This must have happened quite recently, because I’ve driven by countless times and always wondered why they didn’t have the name somewhere! Weird to have an un-branded RE venue indeed.

A dramatic approach, non?

A dramatic approach, non?

Upstairs: interesting combinations

Upon entering, I was a bit surprised as it definitely felt like we had walked into a fairly posh bar, not a pub. This wasn’t a bad thing though, and the design was actually quite pleasant, with some of the more interesting historical features retained and restored. The building itself was apparently originally a coaching inn designed by John Nash in the 1820’s. In keeping (no pun intended) with this history, there are 10 sleeping rooms on the upper floors, which look very nice and well appointed from their online photos. The bar had some very ‘hotel bar’ music playing, so it did sort of feel like you were in the bar of a 4-star boutique hotel that had been around for a while – not what I had expected, but not at all unpleasant. There is also “Nonna’s Deli” (occupying the space where apparently the stables used to be), which you can enter through either an outside door or through a door at one end of the bar, and is home to some of Mrs. Hartnett’s favorite foodstuffs – it all looked pretty good. The in-laws purchased some of “Nonna’s” homemade preserves. So, a bar-cum-hotel-cum-deli-cum…restaurant! Yes, that’s what we were really there for, the food!

The soft & mellow tones of the bar area

The soft & mellow tones of the bar area

But we were waiting for a fifth guest, our long-time friend, who we shall call “Mr. S”…and we needed to have a drink. After perusing the very nice cocktail list, the missus’ brother order a Pimms No. 1, I ordered the signature cocktail out of pure fascination (since it mixed champagne with vodka, which my brother in-law said was a cardinal faux-pas), while the missus and her nephew made do with fruit juices and such.

Champagne & Vodka – didn’t think the two would match, but it was surprisingly good & refreshing

Champagne & Vodka – didn’t think the two would match, but it was surprisingly good & refreshing

Well, let me tell you, the cocktails were excellent. The Pimms No. 1 was a master class in how to make this drink, which usually fails to inspire me when I go to peoples’ houses for outdoor parties, etc. My brother in-law, who is the former national cocktail-making champion of France (yes, for the WHOLE country), said it was done perfectly. And mine was tasted great too – sour citrus, fizz and a little clean hit of vodka: a surprising combination which was surprisingly good. The service at the bar was also excellent. They even proactively made sure that the restaurant was aware that we were there and coordinated everything for us.

Downstairs: simply red

Mr. S arrived fashionably late just as we were making our way to our table, fancy that. The upstairs section of the dining room was rather dimly lit and slightly brooding, though very full. I was a bit surprised as the hostess led us down the stairs because I hadn’t realized there was a proper downstairs, and had figured that was where the bathrooms were located. But more discoveries lurked down below.

First, it turned out that our round table for six afforded a perfect view of the kitchen window – so we had scored a Chef’s Table for free.

Chef’s Table, gratis

Chef’s Table, gratis

Second, it was like we had walked into a sumptuous red boudoir of some kind! And I am not joking. The walls were covered in a soft red fabric, the tables were red, the chairs were red, and so and so forth. A bit strange, but I began to make myself comfortable after the initial shock.

Only the lights aren’t red

Only the lights aren’t red

We were shortly thereafter welcomed by our waiter for the evening, who was the perfect Italian host: pleasant, professional and passionate. It also turned out that he would also double as our sommelier, so as I was under strict instructions not to order anything French, I eventually came to decide upon one of the Italian options (I don’t think my brother in-law wanted to stray too far from his home country after all :)). It was a 2005 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Poliziano (Tuscany, Italy) at £55/bottle and it was a good example, displaying deep and ripe red fruit, with a bit of leather and tobacco mixed in, plus a hint of spice. The tannins were a little strong at first but softened a bit after resting in the glass and bottle. A nice choice.

After a few sips of the wine, our orders were taken, and one of the dishes sounded so good that both Mrs. LF and I ordered it – a rare happening indeed (see Starter 1 below). Overall, the menu was rather abbreviated and offered fairly simply prepared dishes with very promising ingredients and flavor combinations…with a subtle but definite bent towards Italy.

Starter 1: Ravioli of braised rabbit leg, peas, wild mushroom and marjoram emulsion

Starter 1: Ravioli of braised rabbit leg, peas, wild mushroom and marjoram emulsion

My starter of rabbit ravioli was good…real good. The flavors were dense, precise, individual and all worked in concert to create a very more-ish dish. The pasta was perfectly made and the sauce was rich but with just a hint of tartness to keep it from being too full-on. Mrs. LF liked it just as much as I did. You can tell that the ingredients had been well sourced and brought to their full potential It got a 7/10 from both of us.

Starter 2: Ballottine of poached Scottish salmon, pickled mooli, watercress, spring vegetables, deep-fried quail’s egg

Starter 2: Ballottine of poached Scottish salmon, pickled mooli, watercress, spring vegetables, deep-fried quail’s egg

My brother in-law had the salmon ballottine, which he said was excellent, no complaints whatsoever. As he has a pretty discerning palate (also being a humble yet rather good chef), I took his word for it, but did get one fork-full and agreed. Not really my ideal type of starter, but it was a good piece of salmon and the dish had been executed to a high standard. I will refrain from giving it a score though, as I only had one bite.

By this point, I had began to notice that the salmon, and indeed all of the other dishes, had been served on the signature Gordon Ramsay Royal Doulton collection. After eating at so many RE establishments in the past little while (maze in New York and Claridge’s most recently), it was becoming a familiar site. But this wasn’t a negative at all, because the food at all of the RE establishments hadn’t let me down yet as of yet, which is saying something.

Starter 3: Smoked, peppered fillet of mackerel, Jersey royal potato salad, broad beans, truffle mayonnaise

Starter 3: Smoked, peppered fillet of mackerel, Jersey royal potato salad, broad beans, truffle mayonnaise

Mr. S had the mackerel salad and was not too forthcoming with a portion to taste. He said it was excellent and scoffed it down in about 1 minute flat. So no score, but again, high praise for the simple but defined and well combined flavors.

Main 1: Roasted Devon plaice with sweetcorn and girolle risotto, buttered runner beans

Main 1: Roasted Devon plaice with sweetcorn and girolle risotto, buttered runner beans

I really enjoyed my plaice main course. The fish was cooked very well and tasted nice and fresh. The risotto was perfectly al dente and creamy. The beans added a nice crunch to the other rather soft textures and the richness of the mushrooms rounded out each bite. No rocket science here, but good distinct flavors that worked well together. 7/10.

Main 2: Fillet of sea bream with gnocchi, warm crab and broccoli salad, shellfish butter

Main 2: Fillet of sea bream with gnocchi, warm crab and broccoli salad, shellfish butter

Mrs. LF’s brother had the sea bream, which he was very impressed with, saying that it had been cooked exactly right, and that it all worked together brilliantly. No taste for me, so no score.

Main 3: Cod tagine with spiced chick peas, carrot and coriander

Main 3: Cod tagine with spiced chick peas, carrot and coriander

Mrs. LF and Mr. S (getting confused yet?) both had the tagine. She said, and I quote: “It was really well seasoned and very flavorsome. Oftentimes these type of stew-ey dishes tend to be overcooked, lacking taste and seem to be a pointless mish-mash of things, but in this instance, all of the flavors were clear, and the spices used to make the tagine came together to make it a very hearty dish that was not at all boring and tasteless. The cod wasn’t too fishy, and was a well selected mild and firm companion to the stew. This definitely wasn’t a tagine you’d get in a cheap Moroccan restaurant in London, it was a tagine with a difference.” She gave it an 8/10.

Dessert 1: Millefeuille of pistachio and chocolate with glazed cherries, sesame tuile

Dessert 1: Millefeuille of pistachio and chocolate with glazed cherries, sesame tuile

Well, we are all wholeheartedly impressed with the presentation of this dish – it was absolutely beautiful. My brother in-law had one and Mrs. LF and her nephew also shared one. Unfortunately, while it tasted absolutely fine, it was not as mind blowing as its appearance led us to believe. Mrs. LF was more let down than me because she loves millefeuilles, and for her this really wasn’t one, as the only reason it could be given that title was because of the pastry which sandwiched the chocolate mousse on the top and bottom. When she thinks of millefeuille, she thinks crème patissiere, and this chocolate mousse was a let-down, being far from the real deal. If it had tasted amazing in its own right, she was very prepared to let it go, as it looked so pretty, but there are very few things that can escape the watchful eyes and discerning palate of my lovely French wife. After all that, her brother did seem to rather like it though :). All things considered, 5/10.

Dessert 2: Yoghurt parfait, melon salad, peach foam

Dessert 2: Yoghurt parfait, melon salad, peach foam

Mr. S continued his normal approach to dining out, and consumed his dessert in about the same time as his main course, with not a crumb reaching another soul’s mouth. Fair enough, I suppose, but not if he were a member of my family. He said it was a very refreshing dessert and liked it very much. But rules are rules: no taste, no score!

Dessert 3: Basil pannacotta with warm English strawberries, aged balsamic

Dessert 3: Basil pannacotta with warm English strawberries, aged balsamic

I ended the meal with a very pleasant and tasty basil pannacotta. Also a refreshing dessert, with the sweetness of the fresh fruit (and it actually was sweet, even the strawberries for once!) offsetting the creamy and subtly herbaceous cream. The perfect light finale to a very satisfying meal. (Note: the pannacotta was much greener than it looks in this picture do the flash going off).  7/10.

What can I say, Messrs. Ramsay & Buchan and Mme. Hartnett?

Indeed, what can I say? Another good performance from a slick RE operation. Good food, nice surroundings and very pleasant and professional service all around. Plus a free view of the goings on in the kitchen and plenty a helping of dark red allure.

My brother in-law was very impressed with everything, and summed it up best by saying (and I loosely quote and translate from memory): “I could not fault the service, which was much better than we typically get in France. And the food was so close to fine dining, and so well executed, that for the prices they were charging it was extremely good value for the money.”

I agree, and would recommend the York & Albany if you want a good semi-casual place to hang out with friends or your partner for a few cocktails, wines by the glass and/or some good, simple, well prepared flavorful food.


Ambience: 7/10

Service: 9/10

Food: 7/10

Wine List: 7/10 (not a lot of depth, but good selections and a rather low average price/bottle)

Wine Selected: 7/10 (it did a little better than what it said on the tin)

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have only dined at York & Albany once.*

York & Albany on Urbanspoon