Pick Your Wine ‘Off the Wall’ at The Almeida
The Almeida in Islington has recently been renovated and refreshed. I was invited down for a look-see and to sample the new menu created by head chef, Tommy Boland. Tommy has previously worked under Michelin star chef Eric Chavot so I had a feeling that I was going to be in for a delicious meal.
I hadn’t been to the Almeida before so I couldn’t compare it to its previous incarnation but walking in, it was quite soothing, lots of beige and blond wood, and spotlights scattered around the dining room, not too bright that one couldn’t enjoy dinner but bright enough so that my food could be seen. I know everyone likes ‘mood’ lighting but I like to be able to see the food I’m eating ( and take pics too, of course).
The big draw for me was the ‘wall of wine’. The restaurant has done away with the wine list and instead now has a literal ‘wall of wine’, each wine having a description and price. The idea is that guests can literally get something ‘off the wall’ to have with their meal. The wines available were not esoteric or outlandish, though. Many were familiar to me but as was noted, the ‘list’ of over 80 bins will be constantly evolving and they even had a few organic wines available.
The Almeida also has a tasting table set up by the wine wall where guests are invited to taste the wines before choosing. The staff are allowed to open up their favourites and invite guests to try before they buy. I always like tasting wine before I buy it because no matter how well it’s described to you, you don’t really know if you’re going to like it.
The cuisine is light and modern made with fresh seasonal produce. As well as an a la carte menu (mains £16 – £25), the restaurant offers a £45 5-course taster menu. The taster menu,we thought, was very good value for money. It doesn’t include wine but they can do a food and wine match for the taster menu at an additional cost or you can of course, pick a bottle from the wall. The a la carte menu is not long but has an interesting selection of dishes.
I thought the wine pairings were very well done and even pairings that I wasn’t sure were going to work, worked out in the end. The Almeida is positioning itself as a contemporary neighbourhood restaurant and I think that given the reasonable prices of both the food and wine, it should do well. I know if I lived close by, I’d certainly pop in to visit the wine tasting table and probably stay for dinner too.