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Jan 3, 2010 12:19 PM

Two Gastropubs, London

• The Albion, Islington

Excellent smoked goose, tender, more meaty than smoky in flavour, pink and juicy, contrasting sharp rocket, with its bite of bitter nuttiness. Lovely acidity in the dressing and in small orange wedges that perk up the dish. A sweetness with gravitas in the form of chestnuts. Beautiful composition.

Fish pie was ordinary. Good kale and sprouting broccoli, glossy with butter. Nice crisp brown edges on the mashed potato top. But the salmon beneath was merely ok, and there wasn't as much cream as I would have liked. The other Albion (at the Boundary) was much more satisfying, more generous and roughly the same price (if one considers the addition of a sprouting broccoli side at the Albion at the Boundary).

Arctic roll recalled one of my childhood Bird's Eye favourites, and I couldn't resist. The sponge layer was a little thin but nicely coated in sugar, and the spiced plum a nice accompaniment.

• The Botanist, Sloane Square

Elegant, stylish, refined cooking that is perhaps more restaurant than pub.

Loved the light meaty flavour of the veal in the veal ravioli. The pasta itself was fine, giving off a little bite, but nothing extraordinary, served seemingly near room temperature, a minor issue that was rescued by the warmth of the sauce. Good saucing - a well rounded and smooth sauce, creamy, with a rich hint of meat. Enhanced further by the nutty quality of an equality smooth Jerusalem artichoke puree. Nice chunks of roast globe artichoke one the side.

A straightforward salmon fishcake, with a beautiful whiff of lemon in a beurre blanc beneath. Spinach worked as a nice foil against the crispy shell.

Impressive chestnut souffle, rising gorgeously, a perfect light moist texture, save for a bit of natural graininess from chestnuts which is to be expected. The delicate chestnut sweetness is somewhat overpowered by the chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream, but they're served on the side.

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  1. I live about 1 min walk from the Albion. A great pub (but only if you're organised enough to book in advance). If you want a heart attack on a plate try the pork crackling. The largest serving I have seen anywhere! So tasty but soooo bad!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Lazo

      A friend of mine had also recommended The Compass nearby; yet to go. Love to hear your opinions on it if you've tried it. Thanks!

      1. re: limster

        Have heard good things, but I remember it in its previous incarnation as a dodgy late night pub and have had a little trouble getting over that....!

        I need somewhere local for this weekend though so might give it a go - will report back if I make it.

        1. re: limster

          not sure if you're still interested in this, but i went to the compass about a month or so back.

          i really wanted to like it but it just fell short for me. food was ok but only ok, and service was extremely slow to the point of being frustrating.

          at nearly £50 per head (full 3 courses granted) i won't be rushing back.

          for the same prices i'd stick with the albion. for a less expensive option the duccess of kent further down liverpool road is also excellent.

          1. re: Lazo

            Thanks - I had a chance to try the Compass a while ago. Thought the savoury course ok but not particularly exciting - dryish duck confit in a "cassoulet" with rather tomatoey beans (nice bite to the beans thought) and sausage.

            Dessert, however was outstanding -- thinly sliced (shaved?) apple, fanned out in a ring, above crisp delicate pastry, arguably one of the best apple tarts I've had.

      2. It's nice to read a good review of The Botanist, it encourages me to try it again. I went there for lunch a couple of months ago and the food was so tasteless that we didn't even finish our meals. I was so disappointed as I had heard good things about it. I've never gone back, but feel like I might should give it another go.

        2 Replies
        1. re: TheSwedishFish

          Cool - love to hear how you like it on the 2nd try. Could tell us how variable the place is. Out of curiousity, what did you have -- might be a clue to the strengths and weaknesses of the kitchen.

          1. re: limster

            The menu seems to have changed, just had a look at the website. For starters we had Dorset crab and trout for mains. All I can remember was that the trout wasn't properly cooked and there was some sort of avocado sauce served with the Dorset crab which wasn't particularly enjoyable. We went for lunch, and that might have been a bad call as they were really busy. It might have been a bad day in the kitchen too, so will definitely let you know how it is on my 2nd try.