Albert’s Restaurant & Bar, 120-122 Barlow Moor Rd, Manchester, M20 2PU – Visit Now
Review by Dr Stephen Connolly
Sat on the Barlow Moor Road corridor between East and West Didsbury, Albert’s has been a local favourite with brunching weekenders and gangs of well-heeled Fizz Friday ladies for the past eight years. It’s an appropriate mid-point location for a restaurant which fits in somewhere between the high-end and the tiny independents; between the area’s mix of boutique restaurants with good food but no night-out buzz and the cute but twee teashops of jumbled furniture and absent service.
Albert’s is a local favourite with brunching weekenders and well-heeled Fizz Friday ladies
For locals, one of the biggest draws is the outdoor space. The covered front terrace is semi-permanently packed through spring and summer, but even on a chilly November evening there are still tables of folks chatting away happily. As we get to grips with the new autumn-winter menu, they sip their drinks and keep warm under stately Didsbury’s autumn coat of ochre and burnt sienna (and, admittedly, the overhead heaters).
New on the menu are a raft of starters which bed you in for the coming cold weather with flavours which remind you of the summer holidays you’ve left behind. There’s a duck satay salad with tender slices of meat and a chilli-flecked peanut sauce as thick as paint. The Sardinian octopus is a generous terrine slice of sweet, tender seafood with sour caperberries. In Italy you’d likely get this mixed together in a simple salad, but here it’s supplemented by a lemon and potato mayonnaise that’s both rich and citrussy.
A hero dish is the feta and aubergine borek, another taste of foreign shores that’s heavy on flavour but without the grease. The roll itself is filled with meaty tasting aubergine and souped-up with ras el hanout, while the vegetable accompaniments are smoky from chargrilling and doused in cooling yoghurt and nutty pumpkin seeds.
The seafood platter isn’t cheap but it’s sensationally good
The dish you’re most likely to hear about is the seafood platter. At £35 a head it’s not cheap, but it’s plentiful and some of the food is sensationally good. There really aren’t that many places in Manchester putting this kind of thoughtful, tasty seafood stack together and this is better than most. What arrives is a double-ringed platter of both warm and chilled seafood, a sunken treasure chest of fresh Whitby oysters, prehistoric-sized langoustines, sticky miso salmon chunks and an upper layer of tomatoey risotto.
If there’s someone you love and want to be kind to then you could share it. Or, if you really love yourself and want to be extra kind then you could buy two portions and not share it.
The new mains bring us back to thoughts of the chilly seasons ahead with steaming hunks of guinea fowl confited in clarified butter. The bird comes with a sherry sauce that’s sweet against the iron tang of the game, rounded out by the addition of a herby haggis cake. There’s also a special piece of monkfish with a lentil ragout and a creamy dill sauce. It’s an educated take on surf and turf, with the lentils and mushrooms providing an earthy forest-floor bed for the fish.
The chocolate pudding is richer than a Kanye-Trump handshake
The desserts represent a seasonal mix too, from the tropical lightness of a mango and passionfruit Eton mess to an espresso pannacotta straight from heady Mediterranean evenings. The one to really look for though is the warm chocolate pudding, which is dense as dark matter and richer than a Kanye-Trump handshake. Served with ice cream and coated in icing sugar, the fondant not only looks like a snowy Christmas scene but it tastes like a perfect little present too.
Albert’s is the kind of slick, smart place which comes from owners and staff who have the right levels of experience and ability when it comes to knowing their audience. The food is thoughtful and tasty, the staff are impeccably friendly without ever being intrusive. Happily, they’ve addressed their recent tipping issues and are working closely with the city’s Night Tsar, Sacha Lord, on better practices for night time economy workers.
It’s the right kind of small chain, the kind of place that you know you’ll always enjoy a similarly high-level experience, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like the personality has been emptied out to the gods of a regimented handbook. Word has it that the interior is getting a refurbishment in the new year, but if they do a job as good as the new menu then it’ll all be just fine.