When it comes to restaurants you think most things have already been covered, we’ve had dining in the dark, mystery menus, eating whilst precariously perched in the sky and way underground, but the Almeida over in Islington have created something brand spanking new; they have done away with the wine list, making them the first restaurant in London to do so.
Instead they have a wine wall, where diners can go up and choose their wine based on the tasting notes or they can leave it up to the sommelier to make the choices based on what they are eating and their preferences.
Part of the D & D collection Almeida has undergone a refurbishment (following Avenue and just before Quaglinos) gone are the dark colours in the restaurant and instead it light, airy with white walls, neutral earthy colours and little splashes of colours on the wall appearing in contemporary art. With the low lighting and candles lit it was still intimate and sophisticated even though the restaurant itself is quite open and without corners to hide in.
Tommy Boland or Tommy B as he is known to his team (The Square, Le Cinq in Paris and Tom Aikens) has taken over the kitchen and it is the new menu that really excites The Handbook, so naturally we went to check it out.
The menu is classically British with a few twists thrown in. We started with the plumpest scallops which were brought to us on a myriad of shells, before following it up with beef tartare – it melted wonderfully with a creamy texture and a little salty kick.
The vegetarian option was a little obvious, a mushroom risotto, (I do feel for vegetarians sometimes) and yet my friend claimed that it was one of the best she had had in a long time. I opted for the special, hake served with lobster gnocchi and shrimps. The fish was perfectly cooked and full of flavour although it rather overpowered the gnocchi, which had a great texture but unfortunately the taste was too subtle to be noticed.
We finished with a Cherry Bakewell tart which was hungrily devoured and a banana, salted caramel, peanut and honey jelly Mille Feuille. The mix of banana, salted caramel and peanut can’t be beaten, it’s just one of those combinations that will always taste wonderful, but it didn’t quite work as a Mille Fueille. The pastry was a bit too hard and everything slid apart when I tried to break it and the honey jelly was lost amongst the other tastes.
That said I would be keen to go back and I think with Tommy Boland at the helm Almeida could give the other D & D restaurants a run for their money.