Albina Crosby review by the secret bride

www.albina.co.uk


In late July this year my boyfriend and I decided that we would be married in secret (for undisclosed reasons) as soon as possible. We'd decided we would invite our very closest friends and family and organise a meal afterwards-but we couldn't afford to pay for the meal. (which was just phase one in the awkwardness of the planning) We both have pretty big families so in the end our streamlined guest list still ended up having 35 people on it. Call me an idiot (I'm an idiot) but I never imagined how difficult it would be to find a restaurant in the city centre that could accommodate 35 people on a Saturday evening at just under 2 months’ notice, well... Its difficult ok? Some places never got back to me, some places were fully booked... Some places wanted to charge us £350 (plus all additional food and drink charges) just to sit us in a conference room because they don't like to have large parties in the restaurant (sorry London carriage works but you are insane!) *Special shout out to pushka who couldn’t accommodate us but spent ages on the phone with me suggesting other places*


After a while I gave up on the city centre idea and searched further afield. My partner suggested Albina We'd never visited Albina but had spent at least 6 months drooling over the menu and promising ourselves we would visit when we got the chance to get over to Crosby. I was still unsure though because it’s out of the way and we had people coming from all over the country for the wedding.


One phone call changed all of that. As soon as I spoke to the lovely Alex who owns and runs Albina I knew it was the one. He seemed just as excited as me about the whole thing. My man is a bit of a foodie at heart and Alex honed in on that right away and insisted they would create a bespoke set menu based around all the seasonal British produce that we loved. It seemed too good to be true. My homework was to make some notes about what we liked and didn’t like and we arranged a meeting a week later.


 For somewhere that prides itself on such fine food there is no pretentiousness at all. The atmosphere is relaxed and cosy and the decor is authentic without being cheesy-And most importantly, always top of my list, the place is spotless and it passed my toilet test with flying colours.

While we went through ideas at the meeting Alex treated us to a sneaky try of the new sausages they'd just got in, they were amazing. Who knew a simple sausage could taste that good!? We went over the notes, threw a few ideas around (my other half had his heart set on a game scotch egg) discussed the vegetarian options (I had one veggie friend on the list and was told whatever she likes will be what the veggie courses are based around) and assured that my 4 year old guest would have what she wanted, when she wanted it, free of charge.

We'd discussed that we'd like to keep the cost at around the £35-40 mark per head (you can’t expect your guests to buy their own dinner and then stick them with a sixty quid bill, can you?) and Alex said it was easily do-able, after we left they unexpectedly had the guardian in that night who wrote THIS GLOWING REVIEW 

A week later we decided to have dinner and try out what our wedding venue had to offer. We were greeted and seated by one of Albina’s greatest assets, Mr Wain. It was our first time meeting front of house superstar Mr Wain and unfortunately he was off watching some wrestling on the day of our wedding, but if you’re ever lucky enough to eat at Albina and meet Mr Wain you are in for a treat. He is just as passionate about the place as Alex is, which I think is unusual for front of house staff these days. I’m so used to being served by people who ooze nonchalance and can’t be bothered to look you in the eye, whereas Mr Wain will happily talk you through the menus with such excitement you'd think Albina was his own baby. Being served by him and having him explain to my wide eyed, food mad husband to be that the malt vinegar they give you for your chips is made in a disused nuclear bunker, or talking about the craft beers with such knowledge and zero arrogance is an absolute delight. This man loves his work and it shows, and it genuinely makes a difference to your experience. In fact, all the staff that we'd dealt with at Albina have been amazing, always courteous and polite. If you're lucky enough to deal with either Alex or Mr Wain, then definitely talk about the ins and outs of the menus. They're never too busy to talk to you about what they're passionate about.


Our meal that night was perfect, and we ended it by having a sit down with the head chef and going through a draft of the menu, which was more perfect for us than we could have hoped for and didn't end up changing much at all by the time the big day came. They even loved our idea of serving up my partners home grown carrots with the main.


There was nothing we needed to do then until the big day (I admit we did pop in for a roast dinner 2 weeks before, just to prepare ourselves. It was incredible.)


We stepped in as husband and wife to the room set out exactly how we'd asked. Everybody had pre ordered and drinks and light bites (the pork scratchings that come with flavoured salt and root beg crisps. YUM) were served as we waited for our starters. My partner and I were served a special surprise course that related to how we met which I thought was a really lovely touch. I will stress: the taste, quality and service at Albina is second to none but if you're after fast food go to burger king. This isn't for you. Dining here is an experience, they want to cook your food from fresh and they want it to be perfect and that takes time. I'd insisted I wanted a late wedding and that meant we didn't even arrive at Albina until after 7. In hindsight id book the wedding for 3 and the meal for 5 because it was late by the time we ate dessert, but that was entirely my fault. If you eat here, you won’t be in and out in no time but as long as you're prepared for that you can’t go wrong.


As most of the menu was husband orientated he had 2 of each course and he loved every mouthful. He started with his beloved game scotch egg which was his favourite thing of the night and had the hot smoked guinea fowl (which I also tasted and loved) I went for the veggie pumpkin and lavender soup with s chestnut dumpling. I’d been dubious about the lavender element but my god it was good; it was so warming but subtle. And the dumpling was perfect. I adore chestnut anything but this was new for me and it really worked. For main I had broccoli and chestnut tart which I knew I’d enjoy but it’s the best thing I've eaten in a long time and I still can’t stop thinking about it. (Albina if you're reading this please can I have another?) husband had the beef shin which was so tender and delicious and the pheasant was perfectly cooked and the bonbon was a shredded, meaty pearl of goodness! All mains came with the most delicious and expertly grown glazed carrots I’ve ever eaten ☺️ and the staff made sure to tell the guests as they served them that they were the grooms home grown.

Our smallest guest had the sausages we'd tried a few weeks before with chips and loved it so much she had seconds, and for dessert she had ice cream.

My dessert was chocolate fudge cake which was nothing like the big slices of defrosted fudge cake we all know and love, it was a block of moist, rich deliciousness and I had an extra side of the pear sorbet that came with the crumble (Alex had remembered that id told him pear sorbet reminded me of my grandads house-another really thoughtful touch) -husband had the jam roly poly, which he'd had on both of our previous visits and simply can’t get enough of. They make it with real beef suet and it’s so soft and surprisingly light. My new husband has tried (and unfortunately failed) to recreate it since.... I’m going to give him a few more tries and if he can’t manage it I might file for divorce and marry Albina instead.


Since we met and started discussing our future and our dream weddings my husband has always said his wedding would be all about the food (how romantic) and even though the wedding was small, secret and not what either of us ever imagined it would be, thanks to Alex and Albina the culinary element certainly did not disappoint. If you have a special occasion and want something a bit different I can’t recommend it enough, or even if you just want a good meal and have an evening to spare. we were their first wedding party but it would be a real shame if we weren't the first of many. Our day was unusual but perfect for what we wanted. All of our guests have gushed about how great the food was and insisted they will be back (some already have been) and the best of all is, it came in under budget at £32 a head. I LOVE ALBINA.


Our menu:

To start:

Pumpkin & Lavender soup with a chestnut dumpling.

Game scotch egg with celeriac remoulade &apple

Hot smoked Guinea Fowl with a warm salad if artichoke and blackberry.


Mains:

Pan roasted wild Sea Bass, pea puree, braised gem lettuce and cream sauce.

Beef Shin, celeriac, port and horseradish gravy.

Stuffed Pheasant Breast, cauliflower puree, pheasant bon bon, date ketchup.

Broccoli & Chestnut tart with celeriac puree and creamy onion sauce.

(All served with the grooms home grown carrots)


Dessert:

Chocolate fudge cake with blackberries and vanilla ice cream.

Apple and autumn berry custard with pear sorbet.

Jam Roly Poly with house custard.

Selection of cheese with oatcakes and beetroot chutney.