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Sunday, 10 January 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - The Almeida

The Almeida

Last year, at the Wine Show in Islington’s Business Design Centre, I got a little “carried away” and purchased a yearly subscription to Taste London for £40 (reduced from £70 @ the Show). The membership card gives you 50% off the food bill (or 2 for 1) in all participating restaurants.

The catch is that the majority of restaurants will not take the card on Fridays and Saturdays, and I suspect that some of the restaurants are only there because they are struggling to find custom (with all the risks that entails).
This year, I decided to try and recoup my initial investment by visiting the restaurants which I know are reputedly good like The Almeida, Gay Hussar and The Admiralty. So last week, Dr G and I returned to our local French restaurant, The Almeida.

I had dined at this restaurant before but had always gone for their pre/post theatre menus. I remember having the most delicious Cassoulet there and so I was craving for another helping.

On arrival, I was gutted to find that their legendary Cassoulet was no longer on the menu. The menu had been substantially trimmed (not a bad thing) and included 8 choices each for starters, main and desserts. The menus were priced @ £27.50 and £32.50 for 2 and 3 courses respectively.



To start, I ordered the “Terrine of duck foie gras, apple and walnuts with toasted fig bread”. I was impressed by the generous portion of duck foie gras served, and pleased with the quality – it was beautifully marbled and tasted buttery and totally divine.


Dr G decided to go for the “Trolley of Charcuterie” which included saucisson sec, rosette, coppa and Bayonne ham, chicken liver parfait and rillette maison (made of pork).

This was unfortunately disappointing – the cold meats tasted good but were nothing to write home about, the chicken liver parfait had a liquid consistency and did not taste particularly nice, and the pork rillete, although well seasoned, was a tad dry.

For main, I had the “Grilled aged British rib-eye, pommes Pont Neuf (chunky chips basically) & sauce Bearnaise”.

Considering the additional £3.50 charge for this option, I was surprised to find a rather small and thin steak on my plate. The meat however tasted very good and was perfectly cooked, rare as I had ordered. The Bearnaise sauce was also excellent but again, there wasn’t much of it.

The other main was the “Slow roast belly of suckling pig, confit root vegetables, creamed Savoy cabbage, and sauce aux epices (spicy sauce). This was also excellent, the meat was incredibly tender and the crackling was beautifully caramelised, crisp and very thin. The accompanying sauce was complex and mildly spicy with delicate flavours of saffron and curry.

Unfortunately, the waitress carelessly tilted the plate as she placed it on our table which didn’t help with the presentation of the dish. I felt that service was overall polite but impersonal, and inattentive at times.

For pudding, we shared a “Valrhona extra bitter chocolate soufflé, with salt caramel ice cream” and “Creme Brulee with warm Madeleine”. 

The soufflé was a tad sweet for an extra bitter chocolate variety, but it was very light and tasted good accompanied by the salt caramel ice cream. In fact, I enjoyed the ice cream more than I did the soufflé itself.

The crème brulee was utterly delicious – it had a delicate vanilla flavour and perfect consistency (neither too hard nor too liquid).


We ordered one of the least expensive bottles of wine @ £21 which we felt was overpriced. After Taste London’s 50% reduction on the food, the total bill came to £61. Service is not added to the bill but left at customers’ discretion which is praiseworthy for a restaurant of this calibre.

As with any other D&D restaurant (former Conran), I feel prices are inflated and I would have been annoyed had I paid the full whack, around £100, for this meal.  This might explain the countless newspaper offers, the more affordable pre/post theatre menus, and their Taste London participation. 

Verdict – Good quality French food and wine at inflated prices. Polite but inattentive service. A good and affordable choice for pre or post theatre dining in Islington.

Almeida on Urbanspoon


  1. From your review, I'd agree that the full prices seem OTT for what one is getting food and service wise. Good but not great is what it sounds like?

  2. I've only been here the once years ago. I can't say I was that big a fan but at least I'm glad that they don't arrange their chips in a 'jenga' formation anymore. BTW, have you been to Frederick's in Camden Passage? Although I've not been in a while, it'a an N1 fave of mine.

  3. @ Kavey - hello dear, yes i totally agree and would have been very p****off if i had paid full prices. I don't really think anyone does @ Conran places anyway which makes me believe that they re just overpriced.

    @ Mr Noodles - hi Sung, I had been to Almeida a few times before and always enjoyed it but always on the cheap i.e. pre/post theatre menus. The cassoleut was fantastic. I have never been to Frederick's but heard really good stories about it. I live 5 mins from there.

  4. Was there with a couple of friends just yesterday. Thought that the service was fabulous despite our Little One bawling away. It food itself was somewhat uninspiring but I would return for its reasonably priced pre-theatre set dinners. Oh, the service charge is entirely up to your own discretion.


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