Tucked away on the first floor of The Range, the swanky golf course and clubhouse in Spinningfields, Albatross & Arnold may not immediately spring to mind when looking for the best restaurants in town. But it should.
It’s an inviting space, with a 13ft polished concrete, oak and brass bar, sumptuous velvet furniture and a suspended light installation featuring over 1,000 strikingly lit golf balls – 1017 to be precise, according to our server Charlie who tells us she threaded them all by hand.
The menu, by head chef Jonathan Green, who trained at Michelin-starred Northcote, spent three years at Tattu, and appeared on MasterChef: The Professionals, is concise. There’s a reason for this.
Firstly, Jonathan is the only chef in the kitchen – he does everything himself. And secondly, they’re keen to cut down on the waste often seen in the restaurant industry. Jonathan likes to use the entirety of the produce, which is all local, from the root to the fruit. The bar and kitchen work quite closely, so anything unused might go into an infused spirit.
This no-waste ethos is seen straight away with the first dish on our five-course tasting menu (£45, or £75 with paired wines).
Tender, sweet white snow crab comes with charred sweetcorn and a sweetcorn velouté. The chef makes this by taking the husk from a corn on the cob, smoking it and setting fire to it with loads of butter to infuse it with the sweetcorn flavour, and then using that to marinate the crab and make the velouté.
It’s utterly delicious, and perfectly paired with a Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve English sparkling wine from Hampshire, bright and golden with citrus notes complementing the crab.
Next up is a cauliflower dish that Jonathan prepared on MasterChef: The Professionals, where he got through to the quarter-finals. It’s a dish the restaurant is very proud of, and rightly so. It’s a beauty.
Inside a crisp potato skin is a cauliflower custard (don’t be put off, it works) made with the root, trim and all of the leaves, so the whole cauliflower is used. On top there are home-pickled silverskin onions, a blowtorched floret made with cauliflower that has been fermented for the past month, and pickled florets. There’s also red veined sorrel, and a punchy gherkin gel.
The oaky, toasty cauliflower brulée crumb sitting on top was a happy accident, Charlie tells us. When the chef was making it on Masterchef, he accidentally burnt it instead of caramelising it. But Michelin-starred judge Marcus Wareing loved that about it, so he decided to keep it that way. Marcus was right, of course.
The wine match is a South African Chardonnay which spends 10 months in French oak barrels for a smoky oakiness. Citrus on the nose and palate cuts through some of the buttery richness of the cauliflower custard.
The fish course is cod, a succulent fillet with butter-roasted samphire, fennel braised in a stock made with the bones of the fish, and raw fennel crisps.
Underneath there is a burnt apple purée, and a little sphere of apple which has been compressed with apple liqueur as well as apple juice. There’s a hint of Bonfire Night with the sweet caramel-ly apple-iness of it all. It’s delightful, and a Portuguese white with notes of lemon thyme on the finish is a fine match.
It’s followed by duck breast, plump and perfectly pink, served with golden potatoes and broccoli that have been cooked in duck fat, a home-made puff pastry parcel filled with rich confit duck leg, and a dark, glossy blackberry jam underneath. The wine pairing is a full-bodied Chilean red, all soft tannins and silky vanilla.
Dessert is no afterthought. It’s an ice cream sandwich made with brown sugar puff pastry and mixed berry ice cream, blackberry jam, and blackberries poached in blackberry vinegar. Sounds simple, tastes complex, and it’s paired with a crisp rosé wine with chamomile on the nose and strawberries and cream on the palate.
The service throughout our meal is exemplary – a masterclass in how to do it properly. Confident, friendly, perfectly timed, and knowledgeable. Charlie picks most of the wine matches herself and has spent time training with excellent sommelier Filipo Zito, (formerly of The French, now at Tast) and it shows.
If you’ve overlooked this place – and, hands up, I had – it’s time to add it to your list. It’s an absolute gem.