The revamped Albany on Great Portland Street is definitely a pub of two halves. The street level bar is all newly decked out in blues and greys with huge chandeliers, and has a relaxing vibe with lots of after-work types enjoying one of the rotating guest beers on offer.
Downstairs lurks ‘The Other Place’, the somehow sinister name they’ve given the basement, with it’s raised stage, ‘reclaimed’ seating and neon lighting. We were seated downstairs and when we arrived it was peaceful but with an almost overpowering smell of bleach (was it line-cleaning day?) and pretty dark. It’s probably ideal for a gig and/or to get drunk, but perhaps not so much for a meal.
The food was hit and miss, with some aspects great and others average. From the small plates, fried whitebait could have been crispier, but the pulled pork sliders were a treat – soft buns that weren’t too sweet (brioche is not appropriate for any type of burger or meat sandwich) and soft, flavoursome pork in a lovely tangy sauce. The scotch egg was also very good – perfectly runny egg packed in herby pork with crisp breadcrumbs.
Mains again were a mixed bag; the beef rib was great – tender and melting, and a good chuck of meat on the bone, but the accompanying coleslaw seemed straight from a tub – too much dressing and lacking the crunch and crispness that usually makes it the perfect side for beef rib.
Southern fried chicken was very good but in a blind taste test I’m not sure I could distinguish it from the Morley’s in Stockwell Road – that’s not necessarily a criticism, I do like the occasional Morley’s, just needs a bit more oomph in a pub I think.
Profiteroles for dessert were good – filled with crème patissière and covered in chocolate sauce. If I was being picky I’d question the very droopy mint leaf garnish… but overall it was a good end point.
Dank basement aside, the oddest part of the evening by a mile was that halfway through our meal everyone else sitting down there whipped out a ukulele and got heartily involved in a ukulele karaoke session. There were a couple of loud, beardy types who seemed to be in charge, and were certainly the most vocal throughout. I think if we’d been suitably inebriated or at a festival this would have been great, but perhaps a heads-up for those having a quiet meal or drink would have been good.
Verdict – upstairs is very nice, I’d happily return for a few drinks and nibbles as most of the food was good, but would probably only venture to ‘The Other Place’ to get drunk.
*We were guests of The Albany