It was a great honor to be invited by Exploration Dining, a new club devoted to uncovering hidden and up-and-coming NYC dining experiences, to join them for a tasting at just-opened Albert Hall Tavern. Not to be confused with London’s ornate Royal Albert Hall, this Hell’s Kitchen gastro pub sources many of the ingredients used in their New Victorian dishes from neighborhood purveyors like Esposito’s Meat Market and Amy’s Bread. An eclectic tap selection runs the gamut from global seasonal brews to time-honored favorites like Old Speckled Hen and Belhaven. A cozy wood paneled bar greets you alongside the entrance. Soft lighting and candles illuminate copious dark polished wood and walls papered with pages from turn-of-the-century books. Several packed bookcases are tucked into the corners of the back dining room. Even further back and more hidden, enter a small room to either side of a British red telephone box and fully step back in time. All that’s missing is cigar smoke and an intense poker game unfolding under the green shaded hanging light.
Our night started off with a guided tasting of Silver Patron and Gran Patron Platinum tequilas. Both were super smooth with just a hint
The Food and Beer Pairings
Most of our menu servings were sample-sized atop toast pieces which displayed Chef Bill Seleno‘s culinary magic influenced by his stints in Italy, Hawaii, Brazil, Argentina, and Costa Rica. Tastings were expertly paired with beers hailing from across the world. We started out with the Screaming Oysters from Hell straight from the raw bar accompanied with a spicy sanbal olec dipping sauce. The hoppiness of the One Pale Ale from Stone Brewery jousted nicely with the fiery fresh mollusks.
Next it was on to the Tuna Tartare garnished with tiny quail eggs paired with Estrella Galicia, a light summer beer from Northern Spain. This brew lightened up the tartare’s otherwise pungent density elevating the entire flavor experience.
The Deviled Braised Short Rib layered with horseradish and mustard seed came with a generous pour of Triple Karmelit from Belgium made from a monastic recipe circa 1765. This brew’s sweet honey mead overtones made it an inseparable partner with the pulled pork rib seasonings. I sensed a toasty sweetness with caramel mingling with a broad palate of hot meaty zestiness.
I’m not a fan of sardines but gave their pickled morsels a try seasoned with fennel pollen meyer lemon cream. Served with a Goffel Kolsch from Beker Brothers Brewery in Cologne Germany, the strong fishiness was made palatable and yes…..enjoyable….as long as I was sure to have the beer ever present in my mouth.
The grilled radicchio with trifoline cheese and butternut squash met its match with my favorite beer of the night, a Gavroche French Red Ale Biere Sur Lie from Braseserie de Saint-Sylvestre. The brew’s air-conditioned bottle yeast effervesced superbly tying many of the ingredients that would otherwise be disjointed, especially the squash’s complex sweetness that’s similar to pineapple.
Radeberger, a great summer beer from Germany’s Binding Brewery, was served up with a heaping bowl of steamed mussels seasoned with charred rosemary and black garlic. Upon the suggestion of our waitress, we got an extra piece of crusty bread to soak up the juices at the bottom of the bowl. Boy was her tip well appreciated! Rosemary herbiness strongly poked through the just-caught
melt-in-your mouth mussels. And when paired with this Radeberger, a distinct smokiness on the palate accentuated the flavors of beer and seafood instead of getting lost in the mix.
A whole suckling pig basted in maple rum was the final dish served with a Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic Brewing. Exactly as the name describes, this super-charged easy drinking beer had just the right hops to tastily coalesce with the sweet juicy pork and hint of rum embedded in addictively crisp skin.
Albert Hall Tavern is a quick walk from the Javitts Center so you may want to be aware of their convention schedule to properly anticipate the requisite crowds.
Located between 39th and 40th Sts., take the A or C train to the 42nd St. station which is just several blocks away. Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m.
photos courtesy of Timothy Bailey