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Olde English Pub and Pantry: True to its Name

October 18, 2011

Sometimes a restaurant doesn’t meet your expectations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad place to go. The Olde English Pub and Pantry, the month-old newest venture by Albany restaurateur Matt Baumgartner (of Bomber’s and Wolff’s fame), was not what we were expecting when we visited for lunch last Sunday, and our initial reaction was pretty negative. But after having a couple of days to reflect, we now feel that we can recommend it…to the right crowd.

The look of The Olde English Pub and Pantry, located at the former home of Nicole’s Bistro and Le Canard Enchaine´ Brasserie in Quackenbush Square, is pretty authentic as an English pub. The British-style red phone booth and Union Jack outside lead the way to the very English-looking building, which happens to be the oldest building in Albany still in use. Inside, the bar is front and center, offering 16 draught beers and many in bottles, along with 16 different brands of scotch to choose from. The dark wood-paneled walls and beams and rustic furniture really enhance the feeling of being in an English pub, and the menu continues the fantasy. It’s a fairly small menu, featuring classic pub grub like fish and chips, sausage-in-batter, meat pies, Shepherd’s Pie, and a few sandwiches, soups and salads. The lunch menu is actually larger than the dinner menu – the focus is really on the beverages, with the food as an add-on of sorts.

We were with children and were seated upstairs, away from the bar area. The walls are adorned with all things British – photographs, maps, books, etc. There was even an authentic broken chair that I nearly fell out of. We had to go downstairs to place our food order, and here is where the odd inconveniences began. They do not accept credit cards, a very strange thing for a restaurant not to do. Drink orders cannot be placed at the same place you order food – all drinks, even the non-alcoholic ones, have to be ordered and paid for at the bar. So this is why I say for the right crowd, this is a good place to go. The wrong crowd is one with kids, trying to eat and run as conveniently as possible. The right crowd is one that wants to have a few drinks and knows ahead of time to bring cash.

Now on to the food. We tried the fish and chips, the sausage-in-batter, and a grilled cheese that we ordered for the kids. If you’re going to call yourself an English pub, your fish and chips ought to be very good; the fish was cooked well, and the breading was thin but crunchy, so overall it was a pretty good fish and chips dish. The sausage was interesting and something we’d not seen before. Two links were coated in batter and fried, sort of like corn dogs. The sausage was very juicy underneath the decent batter; I’m not sure I’d order it again, but with a few beers it would probably be a nice snack. The fries that accompanied those dishes were thick steak fries, and they were cooked just right and tasted really good. The grilled cheese was pretty dull, dry, and bland; this only validates our recommendation to not bring the kiddies along.

The prices were quite reasonable with the dishes ranging from $8-$12. The portions were not large but not too small either; again, if you go with the expectation that you’re there to drink and maybe have a little food to nibble on, you won’t be disappointed. The atmosphere is nice, the food is good, and we look forward to returning, sans little MHKers.

The Mouse House Kitchen gives The Olde English Pub and Pantry 3 out of 5 stars!

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