Coda Restaurant review: Headline act at the Royal Albert Hall
Fine dining for the theatre crowd at one of London's most famous venues
London's Royal Albert Hall is one of the city's most recognisable landmarks and plays host to a huge array of cultural events, from the Proms to rock concerts.
What visitors might not know is that it is also home to a wide variety of bars and restaurants, tucked away within its opulent Victorian confines.
Coda Restaurant sits upstairs in the east portico and specialises in seasonal and modern British food. Open for two hours prior to shows, it offers theatre-goers a fine-dining experience a few yards from their seats.
The room is based around a central bar area and has an intimate feel, despite being able to seat 65. Floor-to-ceiling windows, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, dark wooden tables with high-backed chairs and subtle table lighting lend an ambience in keeping with the location.
With a dinner crowd anticipating an evening of high-octane drama from Cirque du Soleil and a show starting at 8pm, the kitchen faces its own high wire act - feeding and watering the guests while ensuring they take their seats in good time. Nevertheless, the atmosphere in Coda is anything but tense as curtain up approaches and the staff are clearly as well drilled as any of the performers taking to the stage.
We were greeted with a glass of Moet & Chandon - never a bad start to the evening - and Mario the waiter was happy to field questions on a menu that benefits from its relative brevity, with six options per course.Our starters were beautifully presented and swiftly despatched. A delicious tuna tartare with spiced avocado, soy and yuzu balanced the sweet and sharp flavours expertly and whetted the appetite for the rest of the evening, while my partner's partridge, holding the perfect amount of smoke, was served with tangy pickled quince, pumpkin and a tasty blaeberry vinegar, all garnished with a scattering of delicious savoury snaps.
They were perfectly accompanied with a glass of sancerre from the impressive wine list, which bears the hallmark of Berry Bros & Rudd.
The wine also went well with a main of roast cod, served with St Austell mussels, buttered leeks and sea vegetables topped, happily, with a sprig of samphire.
While the fish benefited from an extra twist of salt, it was perfectly cooked and the rich sauce added depth. It also arrived in an impressive dish that bought to mind a giant clamshell.
Our other main, fillet of beef - perfectly medium rare - melted in the mouth and came with a superbly robust pepper sauce, which was not too thick, sweet onion rings and triple-cooked chips with the texture of well-roasted potatoes. A tasty Bordeaux washed it down.
For dessert, a delicate vanilla panna cotta with poached rhubarb, boasting a garnish of gold leaf, was a sweet palate cleanser, while the apple and date tart with chestnut cream and a fiery ginger ice cream provided a heartier, but just as flavoursome conclusion.
As the diners finished their coffee and drifted out to take their seats before the curtain rose, the staff busied themselves in preparing the tables for the interval, when the restaurant comes back to life, with champagne and gin cocktails on offer.
As a support act, Coda gives the Royal Albert Hall's headliners plenty to live up to.