Once firmly an artisan’s area, Olympia in Hammersmith now houses a brigade of businesses spilling over from central London. So The Albion caters to this newish office clientele, offering Cask Marque Real Ales, substantial food and smiley service.
Built in 1881, the pub is in appealing and attractive Queen Anne style on a Hammersmith Road corner site. The upper stories are of mellow russet London brick with prominent leaded and latticed windows and ornamental ironwork. Especially eye-catching are two curved Dutch gables, complementing the adjoining hipped roof and dormers. The lower storey has a frontage of polished black stone. Inside, the ground floor bar has a rustic aspect that matches the charm of the exterior. Brown wood dominates furniture, floors and walls and the single long bar is also in wood with a red-veneer front. Decoration is provided by a multitude of prints and photographs. Many of these are of 60s, 70s and 80s pop idols such as Freddie Mercury, Status Quo, and the Sex Pistols, acknowledging the major music events held at the Olympia Centre. There is a special shrine to the age-defying Rolling Stones but not even Dartford’s finest were performing at the time of the pub’s Victorian origins.
A spiral metal staircase leads to an upper bar. This replicates the rustic detailing of the ground floor with wooden fixtures and fitting. It serves as an overspill area when the pub is crowded but is particularly favoured for private parties and get-togethers. Given the abundance of offices in the area, there is also a demand for its use as a place for meetings and seminars and it can accommodate up to one hundred attendees. The Albion appropriately has a projector, PA system and iPod connections available and buffets can be pre-ordered for such occasions.
The prevailing cheerful buzz comes from youngish clientele and large numbers of office workers frequent the Albion at lunchtimes and in the early evenings. They relate easily to efficient and smiley staff, also mainly 20-to-30-somethings. There’s no TV to interrupt chat and conversation but live music is provided on Friday evenings as a further nod to the area’s performing heritage. Weekends attract local residents, including family groups. They mingle with Olympia Exhibition Centre workers who are only a seven-minute stroll away and often still on weekend duty.
Food at the Albion is not gourmet standard but is substantial and well cooked on the spot. There’s a full-time chef and the licensee, Senko Venus, is a qualified chef too, supplying additional expertise and assistance. In the evenings, the top sellers are stone-baked pizzas. In addition to the traditional Margherita and Buffalo Mozzarella toppings, there are idiosyncratic offerings like Jerk Chicken and the famous Hawaiian with juicy pineapple chunks. Starters are filling enough serve as a snack – the nachos, for example, come with either cheese or chicken breast and a sour cream and guacamole topping. Main courses are pub fare, with steak and ale pie, sausage and mash and fish and chips on the list, and the home cooked burgers are also popular. Daily specials like a succulent lamb shank and a rich beef casserole are on offer, and desserts include pub classics of chocolate pudding and sticky toffee pudding.
The lunch menu is simple and straightforward to meet the needs of office workers out for a quickly served snack. There are sandwiches, crispy jacket potatoes and omelettes, for example. Pricing is very competitive for the district. Starters are £4-£6, pizzas £6.25-£11.25, burgers £7.80 and mains £9.40- £12. Lunchtime dishes are only £4.20-£6.50.
Crowning glory of the Albion is its real ale range, which has earned Cask Marque accreditation and CAMRA Good Beer Guide listings. There are three handpulls with St Austell Tribute and Fuller’s London Pride as regulars; the other handpull usually features a bitter from a leading regional brewery and could be a Thwaites Wainwright or a Wychwood Hobgoblin. Keg lagers include Amstel, Heineken, Moretti and Singapore’s zesty Tiger, albeit now brewed in Edinburgh.
The wine list is limited but select. Apart from the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio, the whites are all French, including two Loire Valley Sauvignon Blancs – Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. Reds also favour France with the pick a Saint Emilion Grand Cru and a Chateau-bottled Beaujolais from Fleurie. Spirits and liqueurs are the usual suspects, but there’s a good malt whisky range with Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Laphroaig and Macallan. Again, for the area, pricing is honest. Beers are £3.90 to £4.70 a pint and wines sell for £5 a 175ml glass upwards – even the Fleurie is only £7.50 for a 250ml glass.
The Last Word
If ever at an Olympia Exhibition Centre event or in the vicinity, it’s worth calling in at The Albion. It’s an architectural delight externally, but it also offers excellent real ale, value meals and amiable attention and atmosphere.