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Albert’s Restaurant review

Jonathan Schofield on Badly’s hat, Katie Price’s prominences, great rabbit, good duck and too much sauciness

Written by . Published on August 11th 2010.

Albert’s Restaurant review

There are a few constants in Manchester life.

On the way back from Albert’s Restaurant in West Didsbury we saw one: Badly Drawn Boy and his hat. There he was walking with the family back from the shops, his inappropriate-for-summer woolly stuck on his head, like a knitted yarmulke for musicians.

A very good thing about the Albert’s mains is that you get two sides included with the price. I had chips and a rocket and parmesan salad which in, say, Grill on the Alley or Restaurant Bar and Grill, would have been an additional cost. Here instead of a £16 dish becoming a £22.25 dish, it remained £16.

The Ramsbottom family food and drink establishments such as Dukes 92 and Albert’s Shed, are another constant. But whereas Badly Drawn Boy’s hat is eccentric these are efficient and well-run.

We went to the latest Ramsbottom offering early evening on a Saturday. You have to go early evening, if you want to go later you have to have booked in 1913 just before the onset of The Great War. West Didsbury, Didsbury, Cheadle perhaps, certainly poor old Northenden, have clearly been gagging for a cool mid-range operator such as Albert’s. Piccolinos round the corner just doesn't cut the mustard.

The place definitely has a certain je ne sais quoi as our Gallic neighbours say. Or maybe it just feels satisfying to sit amidst highly organised success, people watching and dining and listening in to conversations.

We watched nice Jemima families with the little ones dressed in John Lewis; professional types in gangs of four chatting with the volume up like they were the only ones in the room; three men in their fifties with suits, shades, but no ties looking like they’d walked in from The Godfather III. Our favourite was a young couple on the terrace through the window, her with Katie Price fixtures and fittings to the fore, him with shaven head and tattoos and both in a big sulk with each other and both sucking on huge red cocktails in a knickerbocker glory glasses. Fun stuff.

The restaurant sits in what was the Barleycorn pub on Barlow Moor Road. It has space for 160 people inside and 60 more on a main road facing terrace. The decor is crisp and neat, one big room, cleverly realised, with blue mood lighting. The tables have linen table cloths – three cheers for that.

Anyway to the food. The best dish in terms of skill was my main of rabbit, cider and apples (£16). The rabbit flesh had been peeled off the otherwise bony beast, stuffed with mushrooms, then wrapped in pancetta and rolled back on to a thigh bone so it looked like a big chicken drumstick. There was creamy cider sauce as well, crispy sage leaves and a sweet apple that cut beautifully.

I really cannot fault this dish aside from saying that there was a tad too much of the sauce. Half the amount would have been good. Otherwise this was the best rabbit dish I can remember bringing out the distinctive flavour of the meat, particularly with the pancetta but also with the mushroom. The sage and the apple were exciting additions, which didn’t over-complicate the dish as I’d thought they might.

A very good thing about the Albert’s mains is that you get two sides included with the price.

I had chips and a rocket and parmesan salad which in, say, Grill on the Alley or Restaurant Bar and Grill, would have been an additional cost. Here instead of a £16 dish becoming a £22.25 dish, it remained £16. As it was the chips were excellent and the salad competent and the dish taken all together so big I didn’t get close to finishing those sides.

The other main of pan fried seabass (£16) with a lemon and dill cream sauce was good if not spectacular, and benefited from the choice of a butternut squash side and the chips. The cooking was good here and the sauce had nice balance but there was again far too much of the latter. Indeed as a dish it looked decidedly old fashioned. I remember dining as a nipper in some Cotswold restaurant with my family when I was fourteen and being overwhelmed with all the cream swooshed over a sole.

In fact there was something of a Birds Eye boil-in-the-bag appearance to the Albert’s Restaurant seabass even if the flavour was ten times better. Still there’s no need for all the sauce: tone it down chef, flavour the fish don’t hide it.

Back to the starters for a minute.

The best was a shared potted duck (£5.50) with spring onion, crostini and an apricot and plum chutney. The latter was less of a chutney and almost a marmelade, but it was still a welcome accompaniment to the potted duck. The latter meanwhile was the equal of the rabbit construction in terms of winning plaudits during the meal. The texture of shredded duck with the onion was a triumph.

A pudding of orange pannacotta (£5.50) with rosemary and orange syrup was almost as good as the potted duck and the rabbit. This was a firm construction with a lovely and delicate orange flavour and a sauce which was perfect, for once, for the portion.

he pick of the wines from a Paul Delous Chablis (£6.40 a glass), a Luis Canas Rioja (£6.70 a glass), and a Torres Muscatel (£4 a glass) was the middle one. This stirring oaky Rioja had power and complexity. The Muscatel came second with its butterscotch luxury.

The whole occasion was enjoyable, the food was very good, the atmosphere a boost, and the service smooth, amiable and calm. A special note of thanks to Melbourne-born Andrew here, who was a very gracious waiter.

All that Albert’s Restaurant needs to be is less saucy, to get rid of some of the gunge. But otherwise this is a fine place to visit and one which already clearly suits a wide range of South Manchester folk. No doubt Badly Drawn Boy and his musician’s yarmulke will be popping in some time.

Breakdown:7.5/10 food
4/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address:Albert's Restaurant
120-122 Barlow Moor Road
Manchester M20 2PU
0161 434 8289.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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30 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

NortherngeezerAugust 9th 2010.

Agree whole heartidly about the potted duck. 'Did' Alberts Shed in Castlefield during a world cup match and couldnt fault the food or the service. Trouble with the Barlow Moor Road version is you can never get in...........ITS ALWAYS PACKED!!!!.

KapitanClefAugust 9th 2010.

This place is unbelievably popular. Ramsbottom mustn't be able to believe his luck. It's good too. I like it.

DidsburyGirlAugust 9th 2010.

Went here couple of weeks back with the fella and it was really great, I too had the Rabbit which was good and the fella had the panncotta. Try the Duck with Strawberries, balsamic and black pepper and the Herbed poached egg. NOM!

Nice writingAugust 10th 2010.

'his inappropriate-for-summer woolly stuck on his head, like a knitted yarmulke for musicians'

tombatwombatAugust 10th 2010.

Went for my birthday lunch a few weeks ago when we had summer. We sat out on the terrace and had a wonderful experience, meal and ambiance waas top notch. It was Father's Day as well and was fun watching all the kids looking after dad.

nowhereneargoodenoughAugust 10th 2010.

when we visited (not on a "busy" night - think was a Sunday) the service was utterly appalling. i was embarrassed for them. and i mean so bad it was almost funny. we almost walked out. amongst other things, even the manager/head waiter type apologised when we complained and then proceeded to be the 3rd, or was it 4th, person to completely forget to bring our bill. so very poor we haven't been back. all fur coat and no knickers.

jipmonkAugust 10th 2010.

I took my Dad and booked ahead, we arrived a little early (around 15 min) we were told to go get a drink at the bar??

I was appalled that we had to stand at the bar and order ourselves instead of being directed to the seating area?

Confused we were asked what we wanted by the bar staff, I answered a wine list would be nice?

We ordered our drinks and had to carry them over ourselves. I thought maybe as this was a new establishment, then they where bound to have teething problems. but I looked to my right and there were a family with bling and designer handbags, who were getting the full table service.?

We were escorted to our seats when our table was ready and were again made to carry our own drinks.

The food was good. but first impressions last! I dont think I will return in a hurry!!!

FranklloydAugust 10th 2010.

What, exactly, is wrong with "a fur coat and no knickers"

Cock-a-hoopAugust 10th 2010.

Albert's Shed in Castlefield do some great lunchtime offers and the food is superb. Very ambient sitting on the terrace although a sunny day can bring an influx of beefcake chav via Dukes terrace !

GazzaAugust 10th 2010.

I went here with the other half not long after they'd opened. Though there were spaces to eat on the terrace, we were told this was reserved and we'd need to eat inside, when I asked to reserve a space, they told me that wasn't possible! The service was then slow, the food simply average for Manchester, and when we left, we vowed never to go back other than for a drink if other places were full! Oh.. and 10 minutes after we sat in the swealtering main restaurant, someone walked in off the street, sat on the terrace and ordered!

sz837rAugust 10th 2010.

Every review I have read (except this one) of this place has commented on how bad the service was. Friends who have been have also said how poor it was. one friend was pestered by the waiter to tell his boss how great the service had been which seemed a bit desperate – he refused. The reviewer could have caught the place on an exceptionally good night, but the glowing praise for the service seem a bit at odds with everyone else´s experience.

squirrelitoAugust 10th 2010.

Ooh, Beefcake Chav influxes! When's the sunshine coming back?

Jane BaxterAugust 10th 2010.

The service was very bad indeed when it first opened. After my first visit I decided I wouldn't go back but relented when a friend persuaded me. This was 2 weeks ago and I was pleasantly surprised by the improvement - couldn't fault the service (though tried to!) or the food. Rumours went around that they had had so many complaints about the service they had re-training sessions with the staff and replaced some. It certainly worked.

CozdnusAugust 10th 2010.

Pleased to hear that service has improved! Three times we've been with our four year old, and three times had to ask for the (pretty good) childrens menu.
Food wasn't outstanding, but was fine. What I enjoyed most was the atmosphere. Terrace on a warm afternoon, and I imagine evenings indoors are good fun too. Brilliant venue for people watching as this post suggests.
I'll definitely go back, and hope it's Andrew's shift!

SarahAugust 11th 2010.

Went to Albert's at the end of June, wasn't impressed at all. Very expensive, for what you get and the service was terrible. They kept us waiting 20 minutes for our children's meals whilst the children were climbing the walls with hunger! They had obviously forgotten our order. Prefer the one in Castlefield, miles better...

AspersAugust 11th 2010.

We went last night for my boyfriend's birthday - we hadn't booked and arrived about 7.30pm , we asked for a table outside and were promptly escorted outside. Victoria was our waitress and she was great! Really attentive and helpful. The fillet steaks were fantastic - they cut like butter and agree - it's so nice to have 2 sides included !
They have redeemed themselves as sadly out first visit was nothing like this - the goats cheese and fig salad is a complete rip off - teeny bit of goats cheese and loads of cos lettuce, a couple of croutons - and all for the bargain price of a tenner! We sat inside and the waitress was brusque ,curt and not at all helpful?! So - it seems like it is a 50/50 gamble! Hope the next visit is like last night!

Thomas EllisAugust 11th 2010.

Why would anyone think that consuming overpriced plates of faux continental phlegm beside one of the busiest roads in Manchester was akin to a positive dining experience; or that the sort of clientele described here would be deemed desirable people to 'listen in to conversation' and share some dressed up duck bowels with?

AnonymousAugust 11th 2010.

Bit of a snotty person eh Thomas?

Thomas EllisAugust 11th 2010.

Obviously not snotty enough not to leave my own name. The reason I posted the comment is because one of my friends who also shares a hatred for 'Albert's' and its 'patrons' who smugly look out at the masses from the terrace THEY believe represents such affluence and success, forwarded me the link to this review. I felt compelled to write down what I feel about the place, and the sort of elitist, self important statement it sends out to anyone who has the misfortune to walk by the place and be gawped at by the finest selection of aspirational reprobates in South Manchester. I find it laughable that people who go there would pay over the odds to eat at the same time as inhaling a taste inducing dose of rush hour exhaust fumes.

AspersAugust 12th 2010.

So you have just about offended everyone who has written a post on here then Thomas?!
And people who do comment generally do so to express opinions to help others make an informed choice. I certainly do not consider myself to be one of " finest selection of aspirational reprobates in South Manchester." !!!
If your definiation of an eatery that has an outside space is " people who go there would pay over the odds to eat at the same time as inhaling a taste inducing dose of rush hour exhaust fumes" - then are your thoughts on FOLK, RHUBARB, BISTRO WEST 156, Piccolinos all the same then?!
Fair enough - if you don't like the place ( I didn't first time I went but gave it another ago and am pleased I did) - then perhaps be a bit more constructive in your comments and don't generalise people into one big group? Yes there are the air kissy, hair tossy people in Didders and annyoing they are ...but we are not all like that!

Thomas EllisAugust 12th 2010.

I WOULD put all the places you mentioned in the same bracket. And I choose to refrain from frequenting any of the eateries in 'didders' because I find them ridiculous. West Didsbury is in my opinion by far the quietest, greenest, most alluring place to live in Greater Manchester, and I would not want to live anywhere else in the city. However, I feel the plethora of places such as Piccolino's, Albert's etc add nothing to Didsbury, and only detract from the atmosphere of the place. They DO attract people from further afield for all the wrong reasons, and i'm sorry if it offends you that i'm offended by the rabid self congratulatory stench that emanates from these tarted up pig pens.

AspersAugust 13th 2010.

OOooo, go and have a sandwich on your own in the park Thomas!! Then no one can disturb you or detract from the beauty and peacefulness of being on your own.
Meanwhile - the rest of West Didsbury can carry on having a good time eating good food with good company in good restaurants :-) Je Suis Fini

AgricolaAugust 13th 2010.

I think Tom's a very young person who doesn't think things through.

Ali JeezAugust 13th 2010.

Is it because Cheshire is moving closer to town? Booyakasha!

CarbonmonoxideAugust 13th 2010.

Thomas - I wholeheatredly thought this one thru' and love the way you expose the A for what IT IS!

ADAugust 13th 2010.

I thinks its alright but nothing special, its all hard surfaces inside and its loud and echoy making it dificult to hear what the person sat opposite is saying. Plus with all that pale blue and white its quite cold feeling place and wont be warm and cosy in the winter. The foods plesant but nothing I ate would qualify as memorable and presentation is really lacking mainly because you get your mains with a couple of sides droped on the plate. Wine list is quite limiting its got five S-Blanc whites but no room on the list for a signle Oaked Chardonnay? I think its been chosen for fashion rather than being a good list to complement a range of food. On the service they do have tons of staf working but still takes them ages to take your order but when we did have the attention of our waiter he was charming. So yeah fur coat and no Knickers about sums it up!

AnonymousAugust 13th 2010.

Tjomas - have you been dowen Burton Road recently? Practically every other shop is a cafe / bar / deli / restaurant - are they all wrong? Do they all "detract from the atmosphere of the place", are they all full of non local people? Businesses and websites like Didsbury Life are doing loads to push these great local places and I am sure the owners would not welcome comments such as yours and would be fairly miffed at being called "ridiculous" or " tarted up pig pens."
What a fantastic resident and great local support you give for " the quietest, greenest, most alluring place to live in Greater Manchester"

ElbieAugust 13th 2010.

DREADFUL service when I went a couple of months ago. Glad to hear it's improved! Now how about the terrible, slow waiting system for outdoor tables? Fingers crossed...

Thomas EllisAugust 14th 2010.

To The person who mentioned that they thought i was very young and didn't think things through properly; as I approach my forty eigth birthday, i'll take that as a massive compliment. Thanks for thinking it through and being so close to the mark. Well done. With regards to Burton Road, I couldn't care less if the people who run the businesses in Didsbury would be 'miffed' at my comments- and i'm sure they won't care less either while they're rapidly lining their pockets with cash form the majority of people who use this site. I'm loving the fact that you seem to measure a person's support as a resident to the community by how much money they are willing to pump into the village's conglomerate of ponce thunderdomes, when knowing precisely nothing about what they do from day to day. Giving support to a community isn't about sitting in Folk drinking coffee, and nor is it setting up run of the mill offal in the form of websites such as Didsbury Life. I maintain that the majority of the businesses there are completely arrogant, exclusive and entirely superfluous. The Only business of any use down Burton Road, other than the newsagent's and conveneience stores is the Gudrun's Launderette.

ElbieAugust 19th 2010.

"Ponce thunderdomes" - hehe. That is an amazing description.

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