10 things you didn't know about Albert's Table, Croydon
PUBLISHED: 13:12 20 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:48 23 January 2015
Based in South Croydon's restaurant quarter, Albert's Table opened in 2008 and has been serving innovative British cooking ever since. It could have all been so different though as owner Joby Wells planned to be an engineer before fate intervened...
49C Southend, Croydon CR0 1BF
Contacts: 0208 680 2010 / albertstable.co.uk
1 Most of our regular customers will know that the crab tart has been on just about every menu we have created over the last six years. When I first started planning the restaurant, I cooked a meal for my wife’s birthday. The starter was a version of the crab tart; it was so popular that I put it on my first menu. It is now such a feature that we get complaints when we take it off. By my calculations, we have cooked about 1,000kg of crab since that first menu!
2 I only enrolled to catering college as an extra-curricular skill. At university, I did not enjoy my Mechanical Engineering course so took a sabbatical. During my year out, I joined the local catering college just to learn the basics of cooking, as I did not know how to cook. My mother is a great cook, and I love food so thought it would be a good skill – I never dreamed that it would end up as my career.
3 The restaurant is named after my grandfather Albert. The truth is, Albert was his middle name. His first name was Claude. Claude does not exactly sing Britain (quite the opposite!), so we went with Albert. It was very important to me when naming the restaurant that it represented family, gathering for good food, having fun and all that it is to be British.
4 Although kitchen hours can be very long, I have always cycled to work (at one time it was 16 miles each way!). When I used to work in London, my motives were to save money and not having to worry about missing the last train. Now, although my circumstances are different, my car stays on the drive more often than not, and I find the cycle to the restaurant a real quality period of my day. A lot of dish ideas have been developed as I slog up Coombe Hill whilst trying to focus on anything other than how much further it is to the top.
5 I’m working towards a pub restaurant too. I want to be serving my cooking in a more relaxed atmosphere. Same quality ingredients, same dedication, but without the tablecloths. I want to create a place where you can pop in for a pint or bring the family in for a great meal. The task at hand is how to manage two establishments.
6 We started planning for Christmas in February. We have our turkeys reared for us, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit the farm to see the chicks develop. Great produce is key to Albert’s Table and none more so than turkey. It has to be moist and flavoursome, and being able to talk to the farmer about how this is achieved through living conditions is very important to me. We get a lot of compliments about the turkey, and I like to serve it with the stuffing rolled in our own puff pasty.
7 Although I am at the restaurant all the time, I have a head chef, Josse. She has been with me for over three years, and is the backbone of the kitchen. Running the business and kitchen can be a struggle, and Josse is a tremendous asset. She is tougher than most male chefs. Cooking is not a glamorous job. In reality, it is hot and hard work. I love it when guys come in giving the big ‘I am’ only to be out-performed by a girl. I wish we had more girls in the kitchen.
8 I am very seasonal with my food menu. Ingredients in season together have a habit of complementing each other. That goes for the wine too. Wine plays with emotions more than food. So I’m always aware of how the wine I’m tasting fits with that season, and how it makes me feel.
9 We make our own cocktail syrups. Our Champagne and Prosecco cocktails are stunning. We don’t do anything fancy but we do use fresh, seasonal fruit and make the syrups. The quality is incomparable to bought-in syrups. A cocktail is likely to be the first drink our customers have here, and I want that to set the tone for the rest of the meal.
10 I don’t like Champagne; I find it too dry. Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like Champagne (or coffee)? When opening, I asked a supplier-to-be for alternatives. They mentioned Nino Franco Prosecco. A bit of a risk, as Prosecco can be seen as a ‘cheap’ version, but we’ve sold far more Prosecco since opening and it ticks all the boxes for me.
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