St Alban

4-12 Regent Street, London, England, SW1Y 4PE, United Kingdom

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This was a rare closure from the successful Corbin and King restaurant stable.

The newest venture from Corbin and King (who set up The Ivy, Caprice and The Wolseley) places a Mediterranean menu in a rather odd dining room. The room has a low ceiling and none of the features that make The Wolseley so attractive, but I wasn't expecting this. Tables are arranged around banquette seating and chairs upholstered in various colours, so there is no overarching theme to the design. Worse, the upholstery looks rather corporate; Jay Rayner likened it to an airport lounge, and this seemed to me a pretty astute comparison.

The service is something which one would expect to be a strong point, yet here we were discussing the wine menu (pleasant, but restricted to the old world, and not all of that) with the sommelier when the starters arrived. This was not after some lengthy delay or pondering on my part you understand, it was a couple of minutes after we had ordered the food. Both starters were salads and so there was no great harm done while we waited for the wine, but this is a pretty basic service error that I would not have anticipated here. The crab with avocado was simple but pleasant, a heap of white crab meat and a heap of avocado that was mashed up and then mixed with a little lime juice and a subtle hint of chilli oil. Conceptually I think this is a good idea, as the acidity of the lime is needed to balance the avocado, and the chili flavour was subtle yet present; the crab itself was merely pleasant though (12/20). My tuna "a la plancha" was loin of yellow fin tuna simply grilled on a metal plate. The tuna rested on a bed of cooked red peppers that resembled part of a ratatouille but were cooked too long as far as I was concerned, as they had lost their texture (11/20). My dining companion's papardelle of duck was a lot better, the duck from Gressingham and made into a ragout, the pasta fine (14/20). Vegetables were extra, and my spinach with garlic was cooked a little too long to be optimal (11/20).

I was more taken with a well-made pink grapefruit sorbet that had excellent texture devoid of ice crystals, and in which the flavour of the grapefruit came across well (15/20).  Coffee was reasonable and bread was satisfactory, but the bill (with a £50 wine) came to £160 for two. £80 a head is a great deal to pay for a lunch, or anyhow for food at this level, and so I have grave concerns about value for money. The place was packed out so presumably I am not part of the clientele they are aiming at.

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User comments

  • alan fowle

    Been here two or three times now since it opened-shortly after it opened we went and Gordon Ramsay and friends were there no doubt to check it out. The room is not appealing, airport lounge if you like or the lounge of an "international " hotel The staff are friendly but maybe just short of truly professional The food I have found each time to be just OK For example the Sicilian fish stew last time was really poor. This is a dish I hunt around for having enjoyed it at one of my old favourite restaurants the sundial at herstmonceux (when the Bertolis ran it) on a regular basis.There it was rich dense and tomatoey at St Alban it was a wishy washy copy a few bits of fish in a light "soup".In fact so frustrated was I by this apology for an Italian fish stew that I sought out the recipe and made it at home shortly after our visit here. Not difficult to do -but worth it- it reminded me of the maxim that when eating out avoid your simple favourite dishes you have at home-its almost never as good. End of rant about Sicilian fish stew- however had same experience at fifteen a year or so ago with this dish. What can be done with this place ? If Corbin and King don't know - and I cant believe its profitable -then nobody knows-answer has to be a re-design