Saturday, 29 May 2010
Royal Albert revisited
Myself and the geezer patronise the Royal Albert in New Cross fairly regularly (at least once a fortnight for dinner) - I've written about it before, way back in 2007, but felt it was time for a new review three years on!
A recent interview with the new manager on Brockley Central blog promised improvements to the areas I felt were lacking, especially guest beers. A new chef and new menu with more seasonal food was also on the cards. So what, if anything, has changed?
First, beers. Well Richard promised that the 'troublesome fourth pump' would be repaired and brought into service to allow more frequent rotation of guest beers. I recall that it was, temporarily, although the last few visits it seems to have gone back into retirement. It's great that they offer Brakspear's bitter at £2.50 a pint - it's a reliable and inoffensive beer that keeps the price of a round to a respectable level. There is almost always Landlord on offer, and almost always a Purity beer (Gold last time I visited). But I'm saddened to say that the guest beers have been fairly evasive. For a brief, glorious period they were offering Doom Bar on tap but now, after several visits with no guest beer in sight, I'm starting to wonder if I hallucinated it!
Perhaps there have been recurring problems with the hand pumps, or perhaps I have just been unlucky in turning up as the guest beers were drained, but I would love to see a better balance between guest and regular ales. Why not two regular and two guest? Or even one regular and three guest?
I am lucky enough to work close by the fabulous new Cask pub in Pimlico. Until fairly recently this was a fading and failing bar that was lucky to attract a handful of punters even at lunchtime. On Tuesday night it was rammed with customers, many of them sampling one of the TEN or so real ales that were available on tap. Although it offers food, only a few people were there to eat. 'Build it and they will come,' I thought to myself - even on a Tuesday night!
But I digress. If you are a lager or wine drinker, by the way, you will also find a reasonable choice of drinks.
As to food, the menu has definitely seen an improvement - it changes quite regularly and does include several vegetarian and seafood options. I chose the 'couscous and roasted squash salad with grilled halloumi' while the geezer had the seafood tagliatelle.
The salad was tasty, fresh and good value for money - but nothing like I was expecting. Call me old fashioned but when a dish contains multiple ingredients, I expect the description to start with the ingredient that makes up the biggest proportion of the dish, and continue downwards - a bit like food labelling.
So I was expecting a lot of roasted squash and couscous, a few slabs of halloumi, and a bit of green stuff. They got the halloumi proportion about right, but I certainly wasn't expecting masses of rocket, green beans and other green stuff with a scattering of couscous.
As I said, it WAS tasty, I just felt a bit cheated and might have chosen something else if I'd known - although there's the possibility that I would have been equally as disappointed.
Luckily I didn't choose the seafood tagliatelle - the geezer is remarkably tolerant, some might even say too tolerant, and very averse to complaining. If I'd been served this I would have taken it back.
I'm sorry guys but this is downright lazy. Ocean Stix or whatever they are called does NOT qualify as seafood unless you are running a fast food store. No amount of piling rocket on the top can hide the fact that this is basically pasta with mussels and chopped up Ocean Stix. What of the prawns? Any sign of a bit of fish or squid? Unless you ramp up the seafood aspect of this dish, at £9 it's risking being known as a bit of a rip-off.
Having got that off my chest, I feel I should finish on a more positive note. I do like the fact that although the pub shows football in the front bar, it keeps the sound low so the place doesn't turn into a no-go zone for me. Whether this will change during the World Cup I don't know. Hopefully the back part of the bar will remain footy-free.
The staff are very friendly and helpful and the atmosphere in the bar is generally lively but not intrusive. It's still the best in the area for food, and hopefully the ale offerings will improve given time.