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|Address:||127-129 Parkway, London NW1 7PS|
|Tel:||020 3589 1685|
|Price: £50.00||Wine: £18.75||Champagne: £50.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 7-11am (Sat-Sun -11.30) 12N-3pm 6-11pm (Sun 12N-9pm)|
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No matter how good the food, there’s no point to a restaurant that doesn’t turn a profit. So we will tolerate 300% markups on the wine, even though all the waiter does to a bottle of Cab Sauv is unscrew the cap and put out some glasses. We pay £18 for a steak that anyone with a griddle pan could serve themselves for £7. That’s the deal when you eat out. But what is much harder to tolerate – almost as bad as being served up pigswill – is to be treated cynically. Unfortunately that’s the experience at The York & Albany.
Cover charge was £4 between the two of us, for which we received a couple of slices of soggy (defrosted?) loaf. There are just two bottles of white on the list for less than £24, and a small glass will cost you £7.50 or more. A pork chop is £22, my companion got precisely two oxtail ravioli for £12 and a salad of watercress, green bean and endive clocks in at nearly eight quid. Indeed, the menu has been explicitly designed so that you have to order a side dish with your main – all bar one are offered without accompanying vegetables or carbs. Order steak and chips, therefore, and you’ll find yourself paying £30. In fairness, there’s a set menu of £22 for three courses, although curiously not one of those dishes features on the main menu.
Perhaps worst of all was that they had agreed to seat a party of 12 people when we went for lunch. The space isn’t that big, so of course this table dominated the room. And the poor buggers – who may or may not have been regional finalists for Photocopier Salesman Of The Year – were squeezed around five tables for two. They were having a gay old time, swapping jokes and bellowing at each other. Isn’t this what private rooms are for? My companion, who had booked the table, actually apologised as she arrived. Evidently the manager preferred to take the money rather than consider the experience of other diners.
Meanwhile, the food itself was good in a top-end bistro sort of way, but often heavily salted. Starter selection was good – dishes like lamb sweetbreads and girolles on brioche, and whisky-cured salmon and salt baked beetroot – but the mains were a bit simpler. However, whoever wrote the menu itself must have been at the drinks cabinet. ‘Black figs’ turned out to be figs. Surely in the 21st century, nobody needs to see spelled out ‘Stilton blue cheese’? And they succumbed to the infuriating restaurant-ism ‘cassoulet’ when describing something that doesn’t involve duck or sausage – in this case, ‘seafood cassoulet’ (which was a pleasant mix of haricot beans,mussels and tiny baby squid).
Service was efficient and pleasant, though the staff-to-diners ratio was too high: five different staff members came to our table during the meal, every single one of them asked how everything was and some even asked how our days were going. They made a little show of wiping down the table in between courses. In short, they are setting out to pretend they’re a restaurant. The British gastro-pub succeeds because it’s a place where you can eat fine food that’s reasonably priced in a casual setting – and not feel guilty if you want a pint with your dinner. This is something that has quite clearly passed the managers of the York & Albany by.