Located just off Islington’s buzzing Upper High Street, Almeida is a hidden gem not to be missed! I was lucky enough to visit Almeida twice this month – once for a relaxed weekend lunch and this week for a five course meal with wine pairing at their collaboration dinner event – both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
When we visited for lunch the place was filled with day light which was rather nice and the atmosphere relaxed and quiet even though, just a few metres from the restaurant, life was humming.
We had a hectic weekend when we came for lunch – Almeida’s delicious and comforting food was all we needed that day. For starters we opted for the baked beetroot salad, celeriac, ice wine vinegar and goats cheese (first picture above) and the roasted pumpkin soup accompanied by their delicious freshly baked bread with a lovely crunchy crust.
The salad was fresh and crisp with an earthy note of the beetroot. The pumpkin soup on the other hand was silky smooth with a beautiful sweetness to it.
For mains we both opted for the roasted sea bream, baked celeriac, glazed shallot and truffled celeriac milk. The fish was perfectly cooked with crispy skin and the onion, celery and truffled celeriac milk beautifully supported the dish.
The service, atmosphere and food made us want to discover more of what they have to offer. We therefore booked a table for their collaboration event where their head chef Tommy Boland and Satoria’s Chef Patron, Francesco Mazzei came together to deliver a five course meal with wine pairing.
The theme of the event was ‘When a Scotsman Met an Italian …’ where, for only one night, Tommy Boland (who has trained under some of the UK’s most talented chefs – the likes of Phil Howard and Eric Chavot) and Francesco Mazzei, acclaimed Chef Patron at Mayfair’s Sartoria came together.
As mentioned, this was the second time that we came to Almeida and we were surprised that Anthony, the restaurant manager, remembered us from our previous visit. He gave us a warm welcome and continued our conversation from last time. Things like that make a restaurant stand out!
The ambience of the main dining room at night has a charming elegance to it with the spacious room nicely lit – the ‘wine wall’ being the centre of attention and the semi open kitchen that allows you to get a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes. The tables are perfectly spaced out which allows for private conversations.
The meal started with their homemade sour dough bread, beautifully soft in the centre and crisp on the outside – just as good bread needs to be. This was followed by the Scallop ‘Coq a Leekie’ – again cooked perfectly, nice and moist in the centre and slightly caramelised on the outside. The Burrata Tortelli & N’Duja with aged balsamic vinegar and Hazelnut that followed were delicious as well.
The roasted rib of beef with smoked marrow, red wine, spinach and chanterelles arrived perfectly pink with a combination that worked well. The mushrooms first seemed to overpower the dish but it did come together eventually.
To my delight the next two dishes were traditional Italian desserts. A lovely small pot of Panna Cotta that had the right consistency and sweetness (despite the grappa on top!) and a slightly bigger pot of Tiramisu which was nicely prepared and presented as well.
The wine was matched perfectly and we very much enjoyed all the selections – particularly the 2013, Mompertone from Italy and the not so sweet dessert wine (2013, Baumard, Chenin Blanc)!
I found out this restaurant is part of the D&D group (formerly Conran Group) and I very much look forward to trying more of their restaurants in the future – particularly Mayfair’s Sartoria which will re-open in December this year.
What an amazing experience and thanks again to the two fabulous chefs!