Regal Comfort Food at The Prince Albert, Battersea

13 Jul 2016

Here’s a fun foodie game. Put two words together and see what memory they dial up. Take chicken Kiev. That’s a 1989 school night teatime in Stockton-on-Tees (probably courtesy of Birdseye). Or battered cod. Eaten out of newspaper in the back of Nana’s Fiat Panda on the way home from school.

But beer soup. And caper puffs. No neural pathways of childhood firing anew there. So this could go either way, we thought, as we scanned The Prince Albert’s menu, which mixes gold-standards like fish and chips with a hint of retro (good old chicken Kiev) and the odd statement dish.

It’s a handsome old building, the Prince Albert. With a commanding view of Battersea Park and a quick march from the Albert Bridge, this stately corner boozer sports an interior hotchpotch of wood floor, scrubbed oak tables and here and there the plush furnishings of a Home Counties living room.

We braced ourselves for the caper puffs with a pint apiece of Festival ale – nicely kept, true to the word of a pub that prides itself on guest ales and craft beers. If ale’s not your thing, there’s a broad wine list: solid, plenty of favourites, and mostly under £30 (unless you’re splashing out on the fizzy pop).

And we ploughed right in. That starter of Beer Soup, Wigmore Cheese Croquette and Caper Puffs (£6.50) was not at all bad. Kudos to the chef for keeping the croquette crisp in its yeasty broth. And I’d say those scattered capers were basically alla giudia. But not sure they found a place in my trove of temps perdus. Bang on the money for £7.50 though was Charred Asparagus, Poached Egg, Isle of Mull Cheddar and Truffle Dressing. Hunks of umami goodness with asparagus and egg both cooked on point.

Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie with Garlic Bobby Beans was comfort food in a white sauce and flaky crust, and precisely what £13.50 will get you. Bobby beans, by the way, are your homespun, chubby British green beans: this is a pub that lives by ethically sourced, more or less British credentials. I was intrigued by a fishy list at £16.50 – King Scallops, Baby Monkfish, Suffolk Chorizo, Samphire, Squid Ink, Spelt, Cockle Popcorn. Actually it was a tasty spelt risotto, all dramatic contrasts of tender white fish, succulent emerald samphire and inky black spelt, gently flowing as a risotto (or ‘farotto’?) should. And cockle popcorn? It’s deep-fried bivalve by another name: perfectly good but a case of the caper puffs again.

Pudding: no tempting Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramelised Banana, Coconut Milk Pudding or Strawberries and Cream for us. We played it low-sugar with the Albert Farmhouse Cheeseboard at £15. Passable goat, Stilton, Yarg, Cheddar and Wigmore. Perhaps we should have indulged in the Chocolate Brownie Mousse with Blood Orange Sorbet. Now there are two flavours that take me back to the Terry’s treat I used to find in my stocking on Christmas morning…

I’ll be lenient on the chirpy albeit harried service. It got patchy as the night went on but in fairness the place was chokka with thirsty, happy locals watching Wales thrash Belgium in EURO 2016 on the box. And do you know what? What sticks most in my mind is that the Prince Albert was a thronging pub doing a roaring trade. And that’s just what you want sometimes.

Matthew

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