I must begin by saying that as a local to this area, it has been fantastic watching the transformation of this wonderful old inn from decrepit to divine over a long period. Yesteryear has finally been lovingly restored and as such, the idea of staying and/or dining here becomes a priority and something to very much look forward to.
My husband excitedly chose The Prince Albert as the venue for our seventh anniversary dinner. The welcoming smell of chimney smoke as we climbed the beautiful, worn, old stone stairs to the entrance promised a warm and cozy atmosphere.
The decor is beautiful and the roaring fire was indeed divine, but alas, the temperature was cool. It has been a very cold winter in the Southern Highlands. After removing our overcoats to sit down, we soon replaced them and ate our meals 'rugged up'.
We were greeted happily by our hostess and from that moment, on the dialogue from our hostess went from slightly comical, to the main topic of conversation during our meal and on to farcical. I have no wish to put the lady down in any way. She was sweet and well-meaning at every stage, and would have been a dream in a road-side diner or similar, but for a restaurant of the calibre that this one is clearly intending to be, some fine table service training for her (and indeed the other waitress we briefly encountered) would be a worthy investment for the owners of this establishment.
She: "Where would you like to sit? Here? Or here? Or here? Or here? Or over there?"
I asked for a drink from the bar for us prior to our wine. My vodka and tonic was brought out in a tumbler with a couple of melting ice cubes and no lemon. She stood there and then:
She: "I'm just going to wait and see if it's fizzy enough. I just have a feeling it might not be....do you want a straw?"
I sip. The drink was flat. I tell her so.
She: "Ahhh! I thought so. I mean, it was fizzy when we opened it, it's just....I'll go and get you another one."
She arrived soon after with another tumbler and set it in front of me. With the other hand, she placed a small black straw on the tablecloth. "I brought you a straw!"
Soon after, our entrees arrived. The food was absolutely sensational. I can't praise it highly enough. We enjoyed every bite of our twice cooked goat cheese souffle and lamb's brains. Starters are around the $20 mark.
As our drinks were finished some time ago, I asked if our wine could be brought along. There was some delay. Our waitress let us know that they were now searching everywhere as it looked as though they didn't have any of the one we had asked for. The wine list was not extensive. I had ordered bubbles as it was an occasion for us. There were four to choose from. Eventually it arrived. "It was right at the back!" she exclaimed triumphantly. She set the bottle down and then went to walk away. "Oh, would you like me to open it?" she asked. I said that we would.... She somewhat awkwardly poured two glasses at the edge of our table and then left them there. Our empty aperitif glasses were left in situ.
After enjoying a glass or three of our elusive bubbly, we were still waiting for our main courses. To be honest, my hunger had passed a bit, which was a shame considering I had ordered the lamb shanks, which were superb when they arrived, but there was no way I could have finished them. My husband's choice - the pork belly was also splendid. The food at the Prince Albert is really fabulous.
The menu was quite delightful and making a selection wasn't easy due to the wonderful offerings. The average prices of mains were around $30.
We discreetly asked for a doggy bag. Our waitress seemed as though she had never been asked this before and said rather loudly that she would have to check if this was possible. She came back and exclaimed that yes, they could do this for us. "I had to check," she said "you never can tell about food poisoning!"
A few minutes later she came back and asked "is the food for you?" My husband and I looked at each other quizzically. "They were packaging up the bones and I thought I'd better ask...." My husband replied "it's for us."
"Oooooh well I'll go and tell them you won't want the bones then!"
I asked to look at a dessert menu when offered one and she stood there as I perused. This kind of pressure frankly annoyed me and so I felt unable to look over the offerings for dessert and am therefore unable to comment either on the selection offered, or how good they were. By then I was very much ready to leave and contemplate dessert or coffee elsewhere. There was a rather comfortable looking lounge area beckoning on the other side of the fireplace which was just in view from where we sat. My husband thought we might have gone there to enjoy a coffee after our meal but I had to inform him that sadly, there was no fire there, and that the glasses and plates from the last person who had had the same idea had remained for the duration of our time there. Not so tempting after all.
All in all an amusing evening with some delicious food, however, unless the service becomes so renowned for being laughable that people go there because of it, something has to give. Basil Fawlty and our waitress would have made a fine pairing and indeed, with a fair wind, perhaps people will patronise this restaurant because of this 'special' service....
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