My first visit to Albert St Food and Wine was deeply unsatisfactory. Why? Because Philippa Sibley’s famous Snickers dessert had sold out by the time we ordered (how?!). And I didn’t like my quail saltimbocca – it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
Despite this bitterly disappointing venture, I was willing to give the place another shot – surely if we came early enough, they can’t sell out of Snickers that quickly, right?
So I went on Friday night with a few friends from work – of whom we’ll refer to henceforth as EK, KYC, WJL, BL and SC (their dispensing initials). We’d called only the night before and managed to secure an early table for 6, with the condition that we’d be finished by 8.15pm.
Although I’m not usually one to tuck into the ethanol (I know certain of my friends may beg to differ...but they shall be silenced), I had a taste of EK’s French martini (because it was pretty) – surprisingly it was also delicious! Tasted just like strawberries and cream.
The menu was divided into sections – the food sections (which looked quite Mediterranean) consisted of small entree dishes ‘to start’ (which our waitress explained was designed to be shared), pizza, pasta, ‘from the grill’, other mains, sides, cheese and desserts.
While waiting, we were offered crusty sourdough bread with basil infused oil whipped in butter. The green butter was tasty, reminded me a bit of Vue de Monde’s green tarragon butter – not as good of course, but then again, I don’t think anything could really compare to that. Now, if they could produce and package that tarragon butter into jars for mass distribution, they would certainly make a killing (and not just by means of escalating the nation’s obesity epidemic...exponentially...) Oh, how I dream of the day when I can return to Vue de Monde and eat that butter...
Alas, I think we have gone off topic. Back to Albert St.
We ordered a couple of small dishes to share.
Potted rabbit, heirloom carrots, sauternes jelly, mustard
I didn’t have a taste of this one – wasn’t quite game enough :P
Cauliflower, peppers, black sesame, yoghurt
Despite being such a simple dish, this was delicious! One of my favourites of the night – the yoghurt and black sesame really enhanced the flavours of the dish.
Portuguese sardines, caper currant dressing, pine nuts
The only sardines I’d tasted before this was out of a can (you know the tinned sardines in tomato sauce that every little Asian kid would have eaten for breakfast at some point) – therefore I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Surprisingly, none of my companions that night had ever ordered sardines from a restaurant before either! When I asked if anyone knew what sardines were like, the only reply I received was from EK, the only vegetarian of the group – she said it’s meant to be quite salty (she also said many of us omnivores tend to just eat and not really pause to think about what our food really tastes like, which sadly is true sometimes).
This dish came out on crisp flat bread, and was topped with a nice sweet caper and currant dressing, which worked well against the saltiness of the fish. I really liked it, very different from what I usually order. Careful though – it was quite a small serving; I wanted to save room for dessert!
Angus tri tip, pumpkin, caramelised witlof, maple, walnut granola
SC ordered this dish; he said it was good. KYC had also wanted to try this, but she baulked when our waitress described how rare it was – she wanted something well done.
Macaroni gratin, asparagus, king browns, truffled pecorino
This was the dish which caught EK’s eye from the menu, but she almost didn’t get to order it! Having misread the ‘king browns’ as ‘king prawns’, she made a comment about how this looked really good and she would order it if she wasn’t vegetarian – good thing I had a closer look and queried whether ‘king browns’ were actually mushrooms! I also had a taste of this dish, it was cheesy goodness. And I loved the presentation.
Pearl barley risotto, grilled leek, smoked pancetta, parmesan
WJL’s risotto, which she said was tasty but couldn’t finish; on these occasions we’re glad to have boys dining with us – BL and SC were more than happy to help her.
KYC decided to order the special of the day, and what can I say? Pork belly’s always good. This one looked a tad on the fatty side – yes, even for pork belly; KYC likened every spoonful to applying a really emollient lip gloss to her mouth!
Our artichoke salad to share – it was different from what I expected, once again, but it was tasty. A bit acidic, which worked well to balance out my meal.
On to desserts!
Blueberry clafoutis, toasted almond milk ice cream
I had tried this one before; it takes 20 minutes to bake, so it was the last to arrive. Tasted like a blueberry pudding with lots of nuts, served with ice cream. It was nice, but I would have perhaps preferred to have the ice cream served on a separate side dish, and spooned on as required – having the gigantic ball of ice cream served directly onto the hot plate meant you had to eat it really quickly, as it melts and the pudding becomes soggy.
Pink champagne parfait glacé, strawberry & melon salad
I’d also had this one on my previous visit, and it was just as good this time around. Nice, light and fruity, a great dessert to balance out the heaviness of the other two!
Caramel parfait glace with salted peanut caramel and milk chocolate mousse (aka Snickers)
This is what we came for – and it was gooood...well worth the second trip - (Apologies – my photo doesn’t do it justice!) It tasted just like snickers, but better. Definitely plan to share with 1-2 other people though – even me with my infamous sweet tooth probably couldn’t handle eating the whole thing if I tried, it was that rich.
The ambiance of the place was nice that night – it was busy but not so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves across the table; the restaurant remained well lit throughout the night – they must dim the lights after 10pm or something, because last time by the time dessert arrived, I couldn’t even make out what was on our plates.
The layout of the restaurant was cool – all high ceilings and long window panes, it exuded an urban warehouse type of feel, while remaining classy.
The confusing thing was that our wait staff kept changing throughout the night. We had a different waiter taking our order, topping up our glasses, bring out each course – at times we weren’t sure who to ask if we had a question.
When we did ask a question about the menu however, it was very well explained; each staff member seemed particularly well versed with their descriptions of each dessert – they must know a lot of people come for the dessert, with the head chef’s reputation and all.
Overall it was a pleasant dining experience – good food, good company, a good night out!
Ratings (based on my own experience, on this occasion):
Food – 7 ½ / 10
Service – 6 / 10
Value for money – 7 / 10
OVERALL CONSENSUS: 3.5 bags (out of 5)