Albertine Wine Bar
1 Wood Lane, Shepherd\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Bush, W12 7DP
WLC Rank : 96
Cuisine: Wine Bar
Glass from : £ 6.50 (125 ml)
BEST FORKitsch but comfy decor
Fuss-free, fulsome dishes overseen by Allegra McEvedy
Regularly changing interesting options by-the-glass
An 'Eastenders' institution, Albertine reopened under the tutelage of Allegra McEvedy, offering a diverse and interesting selection of bottles that you can also buy to take home.
Named after a ruinously enchanting protagonist from Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, Albertine, which managed as a merchant and grocery, to keep its doors open during lockdown, is famed for being the venue in which the first EastEnders script was penned. The former chicken shop was transformed into an archetypal, set-like wine bar by Sarah McEvedy in 1978 and later taken on by Giles Phillips, who, until retirement, had been a familiar face within since 1983. Although dreams are not always best converted into reality, in 2017, Leon co-founder, Allegra McEvedy, daughter of the original owner, reacquired it, wary it would otherwise fall into the hands of a callous property speculator.
Harking from the Covid-afflicted Dolomites, Roberto Freddi is Albertine’s half-Italian/half-French GM and chef. “Like The Overlook in The Shining, Albertine has a direction of its own,” he says, “and it’s my role to make sure it keeps going.” Although featuring a modern kitchen, Freddi was keen to preserve Albertine’s lived-in look, right down to the mirror garlanded with plastic grapes and creaking pews. “Allegra remembers picking those benches up from a reclamation yard with her mum aged eight,” he says. “We never wanted it posh,” he adds. “And people from Mayfair come here because they don’t always want posh.”
Freddi, previously of Rochelle Canteen, Native and McEvedy’s Blackfoot, brings a worldly feel to the drink-in list and take-away wall, which, under Philips was unwaveringly Francophile, “and entirely from male producers.”
Rather than reliving a past which was no longer anything more than the history of another person, Freddi enjoys gently challenging guests with the wares of small producers. Expect, therefore, to be offered a precise orange Spätburgunder Sekt, or a “Grillo rather than Picpoul,” or a polished, but Italian-of-soul, entry-level Chianti from an estate “which followed organic viticulture for a decade” (Villa Calcinaia, Villa Capponi). More recently, he has added directly-imported wines from Portugal.
During lockdown, Freddi necessarily focused on providing affordability, “though I am not willing to compromise on quality.” Indeed, “there are only a couple of things above 10 quid on our menu at the moment,” he relates. And, although “these times feel like a medieval pestilence,” he says, Freddi’s much-reduced wine list, which now fits on two sides of A4, has provided excitement. “Not having the weight of a huge stock or a big payroll now gives me the freedom to experiment and change things often – and I am truly enjoying it. Perhaps huge wine list bibles are more about wine buyers than the customers?”
McEvedy, who filmed CBBC’s “Restaurant Dream Team” with Fred Sirieix tastes each new dish, instilling “her fuss-free, big flavours” within. Rather than Albertine’s once signature sausage and mash, “which can be better enjoyed at home,” dishes may include appetising melted lardo and chilli toast, wild garlic croquettes with wild garlic flowers, and the Gaston Gérard chicken leg cooked in Comté, as well as excellent cheeseboards. “Being something of an institution, guests immediately notice when we change recipes,” notes Freddi, “so we have to adjust dishes gradually.”
Alongside the physical shop/wine bar, Albertine has launched an online shop, “attracting a great little great community of new people who are now coming for dinner and for drinks – the hard work we put during lockdown is paying off…”
By Douglas Blyde.