Dinner for grown-ups New era for Clifton gastropub
The first obvious giveaway that The Albion recently changed hands is the plethora of Cornish real ales now on offer at the bar.
Last month, The Albion was bought by the family-owned St Austell Brewery – makers of the well-known Tribute ale and a range of other popular beers including Trelawney.
It's the first Bristol pub to be acquired by the Cornish brewers, who bought it from the Enterprise pub company.
Apart from the sudden appearance of three St Austell beers, it's pretty much business as usual at the pub, with lessee Owain George still running the place and simply paying his rent to a different landlord.
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There has been a fresh lick of paint here and there but the interior is still Farrow and Ball country pub in style.
There have, however, been wholesale changes in the kitchen since head chef Clarke Oldfield left to open a pub in Newbury.
This follows a period of inconsistency at The Albion – the last meal I ate here a few months ago was so poor I vouched never to return, which would have been a shame as it had been one of my favoured food pubs since it opened in 2005.
Although the menus haven't changed completely, there is a broader international influence to the dishes, rather than the staunchly British gastropub style of before.
Dishes like spicy aduki bean and tomato; braised lamb shank with Israeli cous cous and baked hake fillet with olive and Parmesan crust and ratatouille probably wouldn't have made it past the first draft under previous chefs, who tended to follow a more nose-to-tail approach.
My starter of smoked salmon and salmon mousse (£6.50) wasn't the greatest skills test for the kitchen but it was well presented and generous.
The slices of smoked salmon were good quality, firm and served at the correct temperature. Calling the ramekin of smoked salmon mixed with crème fraiche a mousse was doing it something of a disservice as it was more of a rustic paté for spreading on the ample slices of toast.
Although not cheap at £18.50, pan-fried duck breast was precisely cooked, pink and juicy and served with excellent Dauphinoise potatoes, squeaky fine green beans, a sumptuous and well-made red wine sauce and crunchy red cabbage with a hint of star anise. It was a perfect comfort dish for a chilly autumn evening.
To finish, a flourless chocolate cake (£6.25) was more like a brownie and a touch too sweet, but the accompanying poached pears were faultless.