One might be forgiven for thinking that a restaurant with the name Albion serves British food, but one would be wrong. True, the chef is British, but he was off on a six-month globetrot when we were there, and even when he’s at the stove, the restaurant serves French food, Brexit or no Brexit. One of the other partners in this truly international enterprise is French and the other from New Zealand; they provide professional, gentlemanly service in the dining room.
The handsome interior is soberly decorated with racks of wine (the mostly organic bottles can be purchased to go), dark-wood tables and chairs, a few paintings, exposed stone and gray-blue paint here and there. The tables are well-spaced and noise levels are reasonable. It’s a fitting place for a business lunch, and it seemed as if many of our fellow diners were there for that very reason.
The starters here were less interesting than the main courses, contrary to my experience in most restaurants. We tried the carpaccio of sar (white seabream) with sage-flavored whipped cream, which was no more than just pleasant with its subtle flavors and sorely needed something to add an extra spark of flavor. A glance at the menu explained the problem: one ingredient, dried smoked bonito, was missing. We pointed this out to the waiter, who soon brought us a bowl of the missing fishy link, which would have perfectly completed the dish if we weren’t already nearly finished with it.
The other starter we sampled, gazpacho with burrata and seaweed, was also pleasant if not out of the ordinary.
Things started looking up with the main courses. I tried the breast of pintade (guinea fowl) with peas prepared French-style (cooked with lardons and onions) and a purée of peas. Success! The meat was plump and juicy and the peas bursting with freshness. A flavorful gravy held it all together.
On the other side of the table, Diana was thrilled with her red mullet with venere rice flavored with Madagascar vanilla, served with beet purée and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, a lovely composition in red and white and complementary flavors.
The dessert continued the upward trajectory of the meal. The strawberries marinated in white balsamic vinegar, served with cherries, rhubarb and rhubarb sorbet, were appropriately fresh and refreshing, while my huge praline cream puff was rich and satisfying, especially since it came with exceptionally good chocolate ice cream from Pralus.
Pralus chocolate with 75% cacao also went into the ball of solid chocolate ganache ordered by one of my friends. None of us thought he could finish it, but this chocolate is so good– clean and sharp, with no cloying aftertaste – that it quickly disappeared, with help from my other friend and me, of course. Wow! I see online that there are two boutiques selling it in Paris: on Rue Rambuteau and Rue Cler.
Albion is not exactly cheap – the lunch menu is €34 for three courses and €28 for two, and you should watch out for extra charges added to certain dishes – but I think the quality of the food, service and setting make it worthwhile. Maybe Albion is not so perfidious after all…
80, rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, 75010 Paris. Métro: Poissonnière. Tel.: 01 42 46 02 44. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner. Fixed-price lunch menus: €28 (two courses), €34 (three courses). À la carte: around €28. www.restaurantalbion.fr