Saturday, 15 September 2012

Enthrallingly English

An enchanting Sunday afternoon roast at Albion KL

first published in The Star, 15 September 2012


Melody leads a charmed life. She gets to travel to exotic places and eat at fabulous places for work, like this modern English bistro in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.


Albion KL table setting


From this establishment, she smuggled a bit of macaroni and cheese home in a microwaveable container, presumably to taunt me – again. The M&C was cold and had congealed into a lumpy mass, but it was glorious. I suspect the added bacon had enough time to infuse the leftovers with its savoury, smoky flavour on the way home.

We agreed we had to go back there. If their mac-and-cheese is this good, what else can they do?

Melody wanted the Sunday roast, so she e-mailed ahead for details. Yes, they had roast beef or lamb on the Sunday we'd planned to drop by. I wanted the lamb, a meat with more character. Her e-mail response was a heart-rending, "But I want beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeffffffffffffff and it is my birthdayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy."

When she's like this, there's no point arguing. So "beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeffffffffffff" it is, even though her actual birthday had passed a while back.

Trinity Burnt Cream with Raspberries
Tucked inside the Changkat Bukit Bintang area, the red-painted façade of Albion is a beacon for visitors with a poor sense of direction. One is embraced by a palpable kind of Englishness upon entry. On a wall is an arty portrait of Sir Winston Churchill chomping on a cigar. Classical English court music wafted through the air as we pored over the menu, a subtle reminder to always, among other things, mind your P's and Q's and sipping (not gulping) your tea within the premises.

Manager James Grierson guided us through the selections and portion size (typically Malaysian, he suggests). We decided to go with Albion's Greek-style Salad and a serving of roast beef to share, with mini Yorkshire puddings. Dessert remained a question mark for a while.

Several warm buns were brought to our table in a tiny basket, with slices of softened butter and what I assumed was the “spiced tomato jam”, while our orders were seen to. The appetising tomato jam, a mixture that included anchovies and olive oil, was surprisingly delicious when eaten with buttered buns but it left us hungrier than before we walked in the door.

Then the salad came.

We felt the price of the Greek-style salad didn't compensate for the abundance of feta cheese in it. The sharp-tasting tangy and salty cheese, together with the olives, mushrooms and various greens, made for a rich, satisfying appetiser.


Greek-style Salad
Definitely more than six cubes of feta in that lush Greek-style salad


Albion's chef, Colin Yap, explained that they came up with this version after trying another one that had "about six or so tiny cubes" of feta, but Albion's had all the ingredients that made it a winner. The flavours came together really well.

Despite assurances that the portions were manageable, we still gaped at the roast when it arrived. Some slices of medium-done roast beef, greens, roast potatoes and a pair of mini Yorkshire puddings. The Yorkshire pudding was a light, crispy pastry that's best eaten warm and useful for wiping up the leftover gravy, spilled meat juice and fat. It was the first time I'd ever seen or eaten one.

Melody tried to wheedle some secrets about making Yorkshire pudding out of the chef. The whole business is tricky, the chef said, like making soufflé.

"It's a temperamental thing," he added.

No fluffy, light and buttery pastries coming out of my little oven, then.


Sunday Roast Beef with Mini-Yorkshire Puddings
The Sunday Roast may look standard, but it's lovely


The roast was lovely. We tried slices of beef with the light and subtle horseradish sauce and the assertively pungent, sinus-clearing English mustard.

"Laave-leh," I drawled in an exaggerated Englishman's accent when I could breathe through my nose again. "Simply brilliant."

Some may feel differently – it's just roast beef, they might say – but in this cosy nook in the middle of the city, it's also where you eat it and who made it ... and maybe what they're playing on the sound system.

Albion
31 Jalan Berangan
50200 Kuala Lumpur

Business Hours:
Tuesdays to Saturdays – Noon to 3pm; 5pm to 11pm
Sundays – Noon to 10:30pm

Closed on Mondays

Tel: +603 2141 9282
info@albionkl.com
www.albionkl.com
Still, the meal didn't feel complete, like a story without an ending. After sitting around for a while and sipping the rather good coffee (gasp!), we settled on the English-sounding Trinity Burned Cream with Raspberries to round up a lovely lunch.

The dessert, essentially a crème brûlée, turned out to be a good choice. Under the slightly burnt layer of sugar was a bed of rich (unburned) custard cream covering what looked like raspberry compote. One serving was just right for two waistline-watching Malaysians to share and still come away fully satisfied.

We stayed long enough to wait for teatime, but we didn't want to ruin the experience by taking in too much of this delightful place at one go. Reluctantly, we peeled ourselves off our chairs. We'd be back.

And we are having laaaaaaaaamb the next time around.

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