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Published:26 April 2007
A white house worth visiting


Melia White House

Price per head: £30-£45

THE White House is a striking architectural landmark on Albany Street,initially built as luxury apartments just off Regent’s Park in the 1930s.

It has recently undergone a £30 million face-lift, and is now the London flagship of luxury Spanish hotel chain Solmelia. We entered the restaurant on a quiet Monday night, our fellow-diners numbering a smattering of Spanish clientele. The décor is formally elegant, yet the low-ceilinged dining room is effectively lit to create a warm and relaxed atmosphere. We were welcomed by courteous staff who put us immediately at our ease, and guided us through the menu with knowledgeable advice.
L’Albufera’s culinary principles are geared towards producing top-quality modern Spanish food. We started with a selection of tapas, which provided a representative introduction. Traditional dishes were simply handled and well sourced, such as the delicious Jabugo ham (£10) from Hiberico pork cured for over a year, which melted on the tongue. Croquettes of ham and chicken (£6.50) were well-seasoned and warmly savoury, whilst steering clear of heaviness. Other classic dishes which you expect to see on a tapas menu
were given innovative accompaniments, to great success. The Chorizo’s pungent meatiness was complemented by a fresh, light stew of lentils (£6.25), while the Octopus (£7.50) had been slow-cooked to tender perfectionand teamed with a rich yucca mash. Chef Santiago is also influenced by the new wave of cooking in Spain based on molecular gastronomy. This was demonstrated by the super-sized peas (£5.25), where the peas had been liquefied and then re-formed into a giant green pea about the size of a
walnut. The taste was extremely fresh, and a surprising experience as the
liquid centre exploded in the mouth.Their main courses cover a comprehensive range of meat, fish and ricedishes – I chose the “señorito” paella (£17.95) which was richly flavouredwith a generous portion of mixed sea-food. My companion chose the beef
fillet with herb crust (£21.50), which was well-grained and full of flavour, its crust delivering a surprising punch of paprika. It was accompanied by“confit” artichoke, which had been poached then quick-fried to caramelise the leaves, whilst leaving the interior soft and oozing.After a good selection of Spanish cheeses, we didn’t think we could manage
another mouthful, but when the dessert arrived it really was the pinnacle of the meal. The warm Guanaja chocolate coolant (£6.25) is the ultimate chocolate pudding, delivering a high with the first mouthful. The Mojito as a dessert (£6) was the perfect contrast – fresh, light and beautifully presented.
L’Albufera has been designated “Best Spanish Restaurant” outside of Spain by the Spanish Tourist Board; it was certainly the best I’ve tried in London.
The all-Spanish kitchen are enthusiastic, and the waiting-staff are attentive yet understated, allowing the focus to be on the food. The strengths for me were in the experimental combinations, which were well-judged and accomplished with exemplary cooking of the star ingredient.
The different approaches sit together well to create a rounded, well-balanced menu and a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
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