Tel: +44 (0)20 7240 2566
Address: 245 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2
Cuisine Type: British
Tottenham Court Road (NORTHERN, CENTRAL), Holborn (PICCADILLY, CENTRAL)
Right at the top end of Shaftesbury Avenue – at the junction with New Oxford Street – is a very unassuming building, painted deep aubergine as if to make it even more unobtrusive. Inside the colour is lighter – a soft blue – but the self-effacing mood continues with the simple wood floor and even simpler furnishings – pale yellow Formica tables and plain wooden chairs. The menu, however, offers much in the way of recompense for the rather spartan (and, it has to be said, noisy) surroundings.
Alfred offers truly imaginative British cooking from a small but infinitely tempting menu. Starters that caught our eye included scallops in beer batter with black pudding and a pea puree, Glamorgan patties (cheese and leek) with tomato chutney and mustard cream, and whisky-cured Scottish salmon with Michaelmas Salad. Main courses are equally appetising, though I just missed out on the herbed goats cheese filo parcel with spinach and honey roast vegetables – that had tempted more than just me. However it wasn’t difficult to make another choice, and a rib eye of beef with homemade chips, spinach and a red wine sauce was tender, delicious and cooked to perfection. Roast halibut was also a triumph, very fresh and melting in the mouth, and presented with hazelnut dill potato and mustard cream sauce. The accompanying asparagus was plentiful but strangely tasteless – now that the British crop is finished it might have been better to substitute another vegetable. Presentation is good and portions generous – and some of the side orders available, such as bubble and squeak, are designed to tempt those of us who have happy memories of childhood comfort food.
The menu at Alfred changes by degrees, meaning that firm favourites such as sticky toffee pudding are usually available. Chocolate tart with flaked walnuts and a pistachio cream sauce was simply divine. True to the English nature of the menu what we normally frenchify as Crème Brûlée was quite properly called Trinity college burnt cream – after all it was invented there, or so the story goes – and here varied with the addition of apple. Other tantalising offerings included summer pudding and English cheeses.
The wine list is well chosen and varied, with a good house white (South African Chenin Blanc) at £12.65, house red (French, Pays de l’Aude) at £12.50. Fine wines are also sensibly priced – for example a delicious Pouilly Fumé at £22.70 and a Muscat, ditto, was £14 for a half bottle. There is also a very interesting list of regional bottled beers, some packing quite a punch (not to mention two ciders at 6% and 8% respectively), which would come into their own more at lunchtime. Service is pleasant, friendly and – again – understated. Prices match, with a very reasonable set menu of two courses for £13.90 or three for £17.00 – choices are a selection from the a la carte list, where starters come in at around £5.50, main courses at around £12 and puddings mostly at £4.95.
Alfred is a great place to enjoy good food at a reasonable price, a little oasis in London’s desert of overrated and overpriced restaurants. I just wish the acoustics were better. Maybe you’d consider a few soft furnishings to deaden the sound a bit, guys. Understated, of course.