You know that funny restaurant story that everyone has from a 90’s holiday to Cyprus or somewhere similar, where you eat at a safe middle-of-the-roady place for twelve dinners in a row then on your last night, scraping out all your coins before you fly home, you take the potential gut biome defence challenge and head out to that ropey looking taverna by the supermarket and low and behold it’s only the best bloody meal you’ve had all holiday!!
Albatta in Colchester is basically the domestic equivalent of this, and I mean that in a much more complimentary way than it might initially sound.
Albatta has been on my dinner resolutions list ever since I had to actively change my walking route home to avoid suffering involuntary salivation attacks every time I passed their door in Sir Isaac’s Walk. You see Albatta smells AMAZING, and their menu looks pretty top notch too but suspiciously good in value and then you look in the window and…………..well…………it’s pretty dark, and not always very busy and I’m in touch enough with my inner Posh to admit that I’m not thrilled to eat out somewhere with a shisha yard in the back and a high Just Eat rating. Kind of a kebab shop with table service.
Well I swallowed my middle class (HA!) prejudices when one too many trusted oracles told me that I was being a middle class dick and I really needed to go and eat there, especially since I bang on about how much I love mezze all the time.
Reader, I went and ate there. And I’ve bored everyone about it and been back quite enthusiastically since and curse the day I ever moved out of their delivery zone (thanks a lot, Brightlingsea!!!).
As dining areas go, it is clean and functional with fully working aircon and some nice exposed brickwork that aesthetic types will likely appreciate. Yes, there is a big old shisha yard in the rear which can be busy of a weekend evening but seems to be a pretty separate domain from the restaurant and is barely noticeable if you are sitting in the main space. What definitely is noticeable is a glass fronted fridge marking the kitchen pass, stacked with all kinds of nutty pistachio pastry delights which you should really purchase to take home when you’ve eaten far too much hummus to contemplate dessert.
The menu is either standard or exotic depending on your reference base- but breaks down basically into mezze/starter type plates, salads, big grill plates and some kids/boring mate options of various wraps and sandwiches. And those nutty pastry things you can’t fit in.
The mezze is impeccable, and best sampled by their mixed platter if there are a couple of you. Extra points for presentation here in some lovely painted plates with a scattering of pomegranate seeds for the instagrammers. This is easily a lunch for two in itself with the house labneh, hummus, baba ganoush, dolmados, bread and pickles plus various hot options depending on your cheesey/meaty/vegan preferences.
Let us take a moment on those pickles. Yeah, olives and gherkins, who doesn’t love those but OH look at that bright pink stuff which I have since learned is turnip. I just, the words, I can’t quite, dammit. They are so good- crunchy, piquant and ever so slightly sweet they are absolutely perfect to cut through richer and deep fried options that come along with them. Wonderful. I want all of them. Now.
The hummus and baba ganoush are full on in flavour and nicely chunky without any skimping on the garlic. Special mention also to their falafel which comes with some serious poke and the plain but perfect little fried bundles of delight known as a cheese sambosa. As one might expect from a Lebanese joint they throw out a more than acceptable fattoush but smart shoppers might opt for their chilli salad for a bit of a wake up call or go safe with a text book Greek salad or tabbouleh.
God, I’m hungry.
The bigger plates are exactly that- big- and meat heavy with the expected options of lamb, chicken and kebabs with a pleasingly spiced house rice or fries. If you are able to share food without ruining your friendships, my advice would be to stick to masses of mezze and perhaps an order of the chicken wings but then I’m someone who loves a chips-n-dips style dinner.
So the food is great, the ingredients are good and the assembly is classic but most winning is how freshly it comes to the table. As in, you can hear then shortly after smell them chucking it all on the grill just after you order and no, because not everything cooks in the same time, not all of it is served to your table in a handy two minute window but with food this good who the hell cares?
So leading on from that, service is not the shiniest ship in the galaxy, but always on the friendlier side of casual and usually free flowing with recommendations and the odd freebie to compliment what you are ordering. The wine list is, erm, short, but you can get red, white or pink as you like or sift through a brief list of bottled beers and ciders and the smart money will take an Almaza to go with all the eastern goodness that is coming to your table.
You will order too much at Albatta. It’s just going to happen. And even with a couple of beers it isn’t going to cost you more than £20 a head, which is value that you will not find for this level of fresh and tasty food locally elsewhere (feel free to correct me on this with an invite!). Whilst a bargain dinner is always on the happy end of the scale, what I like most about Albatta is the comfort level, it really is just like tucking into a great meal at home with your mates without all the bother of learning how to cook properly and set a table. It’s a mass takeaway only there’s loads of veg and goodness in amoung the chicken wings and speaking of veg you can literally take any kind of food twat here and know they can fill their vegan, dairy free or strictly carnivorous boots.
It’s great. I love it. The end.
They aren’t online in their own right at Albatta but you can find them on Sit Isaac’s Walk in Colchester a couple of doors down from The Purple Dog pub or check out their menu here: https://www.just-eat.co.uk/restaurants-albatta-co1/menu