Albert's Table, Croydon CR0 1BF - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 16:38 24 March 2015 | UPDATED: 17:36 24 March 2015
The future looks bright for Croydon with exciting plans afoot for the town centre - and with restaurants like Albert's Table, its present isn't too bad either, as Matthew Williams discovered on a recent visit
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2015
Albert’s Table, 49C Southend, Croydon CR0 1BF
Tel: 0208 680 2010
What we ate:
Lunch: Three-courses at £24
• Hand-made ravioli of Atlantic cod with olive oil and chilli
• Broth of local pheasant with pheasant pieces, sliced vegetables, honey-roasted crusts and thyme cream
• Pot roast breast of pheasant with mountain lentils and pastrami, wilted spinach and red wine
• Loin of local Hereford beef with a cottage pie, field mushroom, and tarragon butter (£5 supplement)
• Hot chocolate and ale pudding, with chocolate sauce, and milk ice cream
• Selection of British farmhouse cheese from the trolley served with grapes, fruit chutney and piccalilli (£3 supplement)
• Carafe of 2012 Malbec, Nieto, Mendoza, Argentina, £16
REVIEW: Head to the South End of Croydon these days and you’ll discover the rather grandly named ‘Restaurant Quarter’.
Part of the town’s rebranding post-riots, it is a welcome reminder that the former Surrey (now London) outpost still has plenty to celebrate.
While there are a surprising (and often overlooked) number of options for foodies in the area, it is Albert’s Table that has perhaps become the shining beacon, drawing plaudits from the likes of Jay Rayner, no less, over the years.
The baby of the affable chef Joby Wells, who was all set for a career as an engineer before enrolling at catering college as an extra-curricular skill, the restaurant first opened its doors in 2008.
Surrey Life last visited in their debut year and even then found a venue that “raises the standards of dining” in the area, so my wife Sylviane and I were keen to see how things had changed.
What’s immediately obvious on entering Albert’s Table is just how quickly you forget the “concrete jungle” outside. The interior transports you to one of Surrey’s more idyllic market towns, and is all clean lines and white linen. Despite the formality of the design, there’s a real warmness to the place and, indeed, to the staff who welcome you in from the streets outside.
They also allow well-behaved children (and parents!), so Surrey Life’s new junior reviewer was also allowed to accompany us on our latest fine dining adventure.
Mix and match menu
Walking in past cosy lunchtime diners, we settled at our table in the double-breasted restaurant, which is made up of two dining rooms and a bar, and treated ourselves to a carafe of Malbec.
That’s when things became a little more complicated as we browsed the two “mix and match if you like” menu options.
In their own words, “a British restaurant serving innovative British cooking”, it took some time to debate over the shortcrust tart of Dorset crab, hand-dived Weymouth scallops or hand-rolled tortellini of spinach starters, so instead we opted for the pheasant broth and the ravioli – obviously. My point, if I have one, is that this is one of those menus where every selection looks like temptation.
My broth was rich and meaty, with refreshing veg and a little fun from the honey-roasted crusts to be discovered in the mix. Sylviane’s ravioli was beautifully made, cooked and presented, and moreishly delicious. Both dishes showed the care and attention to flavour that became obvious throughout the lunch, and highlight just why Joby has gained his well-deserved reputation.
For those wondering where the name of the restaurant comes from, it’s named after the chef/owner’s grandfather Claude Albert (whose first name was deemed not quite British enough!).
“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,” Joby told Surrey Life.
The main courses certainly seemed to sum that up, and though I was already aware that my beef dish came with a cottage pie and field mushroom, their arrival still brought a smile to my face: deliciously tempting beef with a luscious mushroom and tarragon butter on top, with a full side of cottage pie. It was a refined dish with a slice of family warmth alongside – which seems to sum the restaurant up rather nicely too, now I come to think of it.
Sylviane’s pheasant reminded her of the dishes of home, with beautifully cooked meat resting on a bed of lentils and pastrami and summoning up rustic France.
With barely room for dessert, I still couldn’t resist a naughtily rich hot chocolate and ale pudding, while Sylviane made a famous return to her unofficial role as Surrey Life’s cheese-taster-in-chief.
Service throughout was professional but friendly, and while they certainly take their food seriously here, there are little elements of fun that shine through everything that happens at Albert’s Table.
Brother for Albert?
A little bird tells us that the chef/owner has also been looking at opening a pub restaurant too (“without the tablecloths”). Fingers crossed he finds a suitable establishment on our patch, as we’d definitely be among the first through the door judging by this restaurant’s standards.
Even if you’re not a fan of crossing over our leafy northern border, this is a restaurant that should at the very least tempt you – and will quickly make you forget that you’re not sitting in the Surrey Hills when you get there.
3 other great British restaurants in Surrey
59a High Street, Reigate RH2 9AE
Tel: 01737 226650
For over 20 years, Ready Steady Cook stalwart Tony Tobin has been cooking up a storm in his classy venue perched over Reigate’s High Street. The seared scallops is his signature dish, but there are plenty of other tempting options too.
Gomshall Lane, Shere GU5 9HE
Tel: 01483 202168
Tucked away in the picturesque village of Shere, with views to the Surrey Hills, this enchanting little restaurant serves classic cuisine in a 17th century setting. It was also the Surrey Life Restaurant of the Year for 2013.
High Street, Ripley GU23 6AF
Tel: 01483 224225
Billed as “nostalgia with a modern face”, the Toby Cottage (named after the building’s previous incarnation as an antiques shop specialising in Toby Jugs) has been serving fine British food since 1979.