“Deliciously different“ catering company “rhubarb” is on a mission to deliver a distinctive, polished and eclectic set of drinking and dining options at one of London’s most iconic and best loved entertainment venues, the Royal Albert Hall. Since “rhubarb” arrived on the scene a year ago, the formerly staid and rather institutional bars and restaurants have been experiencing an invigorating upgrade of both décor and cuisine.
Ahead of a recent visit by Nina and myself to Café Consort at the Albert Hall (reviewed by Platform505 on 12 December), I was astonished to discover that in total, patrons can choose between five eating places and thirteen different bars. We were able to see these for ourselves when, following an excellent lunch, we were treated to a whistle stop tour of this location of the “rhubarb” empire by Marketing Coordinator, Sophie Aghdami. Sophie’s enthusiasm is backed up by a sure-fire knowledge of how each space works and what it has to offer. Here are some highlights……….
More formal than Café Consort, Coda’s chic, understated décor is off- set by dramatic Swarovski crystal chandeliers. A mouth –watering menu offers an original take on classic dishes, with starters like organic salmon with beetroot carpaccio, followed by main courses of Cornish mackerel with watercress and apple or char-grilled halibut served with fennel and samphire. Carnivores might prefer ballotine of pheasant with bubble and squeak cake, roasted pork belly or a full blooded steak. Vegetarians can enjoy Romano pepper filled with tabbouleh. Pudding wise, to a self- confessed fig fanatic, port roasted figs with nougat glace sounds to die for! This menu is mid-priced with starters averaging £8 – 10 and main courses at £18 -20. There is a single choice prix fixe on offer at 2 courses for £27 and 3 for £32. Coda Restaurant is situated on the Circle Level, near Door 1.
The Elgar Room
Casual and contemporary, with portraits of musicians both classical and popular who have played the Hall in recent years, the Elgar Room has a flexible seating arrangement to accommodate a range of musical events in situ including family friendly occasions and Friday evening late jazz sessions. The menu has international accents, referencing Asia and Italy. Starters come in at £7 -8 and mains at £12 with a 3 course fixed price option for £26. The Elgar Room is located at Circle Level, near Door 9.
Cloudy Bay Wine Bar
This cool, minimal bar is a celebration of the eponymous New Zealand wines. These are carefully edited, with 2 sparkling, 3 white and 1 red available by the glass, half bottle or full bottle, and are realistically priced. For example, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc is £8.50 and the Pinot Noir is £10. Tempting tasting plates designed for sharing range from seafood, charcuterie and cheeses with innovative side salads such as avocado with pink grapefruit or courgette and radish dressed with lime. The Cloudy Bay Bar is on the 2nd Tier, near Door 3.
Berry Brothers and Rudd Number 3 Bar
Formerly a rather dreary bar with a definitely institutional flavour, “rhubarb” and Berry Brothers are especially proud of its transformation into a distinctive, convivial space which is clubby/club-like in atmosphere and welcoming. Plush, robust décor, featuring polished brass rails, buttoned down seats and dramatic back lighting is reflected in the sophisticated yet straightforward sharing platters on offer -think salmon gravadlax (appropriately marinated in gin and tonic!), salt beef on rye and roasted chestnuts. These and other light bites are paired with Berry Brothers and Rudd selected wines, again from New Zealand, classic cocktails and their celebrated Number 3 Gin. This lovely, atmospheric bar is located at Basement Level.
We were impressed above all by the versatile approach to what by any standard is a huge catering challenge. Undaunted by the scale and labyrinthine geography of the Hall, and without any compromise of its signature panache, “rhubarb” seems to have hit on a winning formula. Each of these wining and dining options has its own identity and unique appeal, with something to suit all tastes and pockets. In all, a welcoming and welcome transformation!
All bars and restaurants are open two hours pre- performance for patrons only, except for Café Consort which offers free access.