I had lunch the other day with my friend Charlotte. It’s worth saying here that we have a marvellous time wherever we go, as proven once in an empty Chinese Restaurant on Highgate Hill where we gossiped and giggled, hardly registering the damp – or deep fried disasters.
But at the York & Albany, whilst we had fun as usual, our meal was not the culinary experience it should have been. That’s not to say we are not fond of the place: the mother-in-law pizzas, its life as a gin palace, its essential north London-ness.
Yet nothing blew us away. We started with salt and pepper squid to share from the small plates and, thinking this might be a bit mimsy, were recommended the Buffalo wings. Monty Python’s wildebeest and caribou sprung to mind – maybe flying – but we were assured that there were no actual buffalo, just chicken wings, crunchy and slightly under-cooked. The squid were fine, but overall? A bit of a KFC starter.
For mains, I opted for hake with spaghetti, razor clams, lime and chilli: whilst knowing in my heart that this was odd, in the hands of a flagship kitchen it could surely be a magnificent dish, ticking off most of my favourite food groups. And yes, it was odd; not nasty, not unpleasant, but certainly not transcending the sum of its parts. Also, where were the razor clams? I like them because they are repulsive and weird – and yet often sublime. In this case they were just chopped up as part of the sauce. Pleasant but pointless.
Charlotte announced that what she wanted was a pizza or burger. I checked if she was hungover (she wasn’t). A lovely shiny bun, medium to well done as requested; fine but underwhelming. And it took a while to get mustard (‘French or Dijon?’). I didn’t nick any chips, which may say a lot more about their appeal than my good manners or restraint.
Lovely New Zealand Tin Pot Hut Sauvignon Blanc, an okay Eton not-very-messy Mess with something pink on top of it, and more chat. We had to ask where our coffee was, and were told that it had been made but no one had brought it out. I felt guilty that I hadn’t gone to get it myself. Plus Charlotte took umbrage at us being called ‘ladies’ all the time.
So like I say, not quite up there with the best, which is a shame – and by the way, no set lunch menu?
Words: Susie Innes