All reader reviews by Jules


We live in Islington and have eaten at the Almeida on and off ever since it started...5 or 6 years ago? On and off does describe it actually. I've had some great meals and experiences in there and some not so great. Things had got a bit grim, however, just before they closed for the recent refurb.

On the whole i've found the food to be pretty good. The previous chef Ian knew his onions although I never really went for the tower block of gargantuan chips he stuck to throughout his reign in the kitchen. And when he wasn't on duty standards did sometimes slip.

Since Ian left the food has been ok to good but the service (a previous strong point) has been slipping. The Maitre D's are fine but the general waiting staff, while friendly, don't seem to have a clue and this is surely due to lack of, or poor, staff training. I'm wondering whether this might be connnected to the sell off of shares in the Conran Empire last year? There is a general trend for using waiting staff from other countries in London restaurants and this may be a cost cutting strategy (i notice the same thing starting to happen at J. Sheekeys). Whatever, it now seems that you never meet the same waiter twice in the The Almeida and many of them, are not very familiar with the menu, wine list and language. This is a management issue and proper training needs to be provided.

The Almeida has recently been refurbished so we decided to check it out at lunch on Friday. While the same service issues still apply the menu has been reconfigured (more bisto-like) and was really great. We went for the set menu - 3 courses for £17.50. Mine was a delicious butternut squash veloute, smooth, flavoursome and creamy with a wisp of nutmug underneath and my partner the house terrine (always good). Mains were a seafood gratin and calves liver both served with curly kale and both excellent. The gratin is a fish pie containing good chunks of fish and mussels in a creamy saucee with potato puree on top. My partner is a calves liver afficionado (can't stand it myself) and this was pronounced as excellent - good meat and v well cooked. I love curly kale and this was pretty yummy though not enough of it!. I tried to resist dessert but they did sound nice. I had the prune and armangac ice cream dish and partner the warm chocolat pot with vanilla ice cream. Great. Nice bread and decent butter. A couple of decent glasses of wine and Bloody Mary for partner to start (suffering from Val's night blowout at home) two coffees and some sparkling water came to a reasonable £64.

However the service charge is added and it's 12.5% which is hefty when it is hardly 5* or 4. So what are we paying for here...a hidden extra charge for food and wine methinks...grrrrrr. Final bill = £72.

And the refurb? It's fine without going over the top. The bar sitting area has been moved upstairs which adds some buzz to the dining room. The tables are closer together but that seems ok though it might be a bit much with a full house in the evening. The effect is more streamlined and modern

Overall, a very good meal and pleasant dining experience, all plates licked clean (i rarely finish my food in restos). I like the The Almeida and am glad it's there and looking good so please get the service issues sorted and we have a very good resto here in Izzy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 8 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8

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