I arrive at The Albert on a bitterly cold evening, hungry for a warm and inviting pub atmosphere, and I get just that, says Rob Edwards
The bar is already crowded and warmed by a jovial din, with weary post-work drinkers elbow-to-elbow at the ornate and well-stocked bar.
The staff are attentive from the very off, leading us to a quieter corner of the pub and laying down our menus at a charming window seat. The view may be drizzly, but the candlelight and ornate decorations soon sooth us as our attention turns to the wine list.
There is certainly plenty to choose from and, with an eye to my favoured main, I order a bottle of Villa Borghetti Pinot Grigio – not one of the more adventurous or costly wines on offer, but a smooth and easy drinking choice priced at £16.85.
The tables are well spaced given the size of this dining wing, providing welcomed privacy without leaving one feeling isolated.
The room is decorated tastefully with a Victoriana theme, hansom dark wood furnishings and tiles in mellow hues of green. Maybe it’s the wine, or the good company, but I feel thoroughly relaxed.
As a starter I order the potted ham hock with toasted rye bread, piccalilli and peashoots, which arrives in a chunky glass jar with an attractive garnish. Priced at £5.50 the portion is generous but light and not too rich.
My guest orders the smoked mackerel and spring onion fishcakes with creamed leeks, which also comes as a main. I am lucky to get a taste, as the £5.95 starter soon evaporates from her plate.
Everything arrives quickly and piping hot, but we don’t for a moment feel hassled or rushed.
For the main I choose the chargrilled corn fed chicken supreme with herb potato cake, red pepper and sun dried tomatoes, green beans and a tasty pesto dressing, priced at £11.95.
The meat is delicious and falls easily from the bone. The chicken skin is crisp and not at all greasy and is complemented perfectly by the pallet-cleansing wine.
My guest, without a moment’s hesitation, orders a pub-dining classic, the West Country 21 day aged ribeye steak with chunky chips and grilled tomatoes for £18.95. The meat, cooked medium-well, is succulent and tender. A generous portion that I’m all too happy to sample.
For dessert I order the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream – a personal favourite priced at £5.50. If ever there were a case of eyes bigger than belly, this was it. But I persevere and thoroughly enjoy every spoonful.
My guest, equally replete but soldiering on nevertheless, orders the blueberry crème brûlée with homemade shortbread at the same price – a beautifully presented and fiendishly moreish dish for those who prefer a more delicate sweet.
Sated and sleepy, I was reluctant to leave The Albert, not least to avoid the cruel weather, but to savour its warm and friendly atmosphere.