Letting the food do the talking
“My background is in fine dining...so this is going back to my roots really.”Alan Jones, head chef, Almeida
Alan Jones isn’t one for the limelight. As the Almeida head chef says, he prefers to let the food do the talking. His background, however, is with Michelin-starred chefs like Hywel Jones and Richard Neat. In the past he has also linked up with star chocolatier and Islington neighbour Paul A Young, both in the kitchen and for Paul’s cookbook Adventures with Chocolate (Paul baked the cake for Alan’s recent wedding).
But now he’s stepping out of the kitchen to talk, because after five years as head chef at Almeida there’s a shift of gear taking place. Almeida’s menu is moving away from a French brasserie style to something more akin to the type of food Alan trained in.
Specialities like French cheese crottin de chavignol, foie gras boudin blanc [‘white sausage’] and loin of rabbit with bayonne ham are newcomers to his menu, which has been condensed to eight each of starters, mains and desserts. It will also change daily, something that Alan was used to at places like Hywel Jones’s restaurant at Lucknam Park.
“My background is in fine dining – most of it with Michelin-starred chefs – so this is going back to my roots really,” he says. “The menu is a lot smaller, but much more adventurous, changing daily and with more attention to detail.”
Old favourites like Alan’s slow-roast suckling pig belly remain, but instead of serving it with pommes purée, spinach and spiced jus, he has sourced an old French variety of potato called ratte, added calvados apples and a Normandy cider sauce.
The crottin de chavignol is served demi sec [semi dry] with salad of jersey royals, baby beetroot, radish and sancerre jelly. Rather than being served with gnocchi, Alan’s fillet of wild south coast sea bass is accompanied by braised baby fennel, crab risotto fritters and crab sauce.
Prices have stayed pretty much the same, with starters from around £7 to £12 and mains ranging from £12 to £21.95 for the assiette of Denham Castle lamb. Desserts (ranging from around £5.50 to £8.50) feature the likes of sauternes poached apricots, vanilla cream cheese & sauternes jelly or strawberries & champagne with elderflower panna cotta.
As ever, Alan’s meticulous attention to sourcing stands. All fish is MSC certified and travels only a short distance, landed by small south coast day boats. A combination of using both fine French and British produce makes for plenty of variation.
Perhaps the best way to find out what's new is to try it yourself. As Alan says, if you’re going to shout about it, the food has to be great.
View a sample version of the new Almeida menu.
Almeida is part of the D&D London restaurant group.
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