Alba Grill
5 Malvern Road
Westminster NW6 5PS
Raise your hand if you have ever been fed “flesh” instead of meat. I’m raising both because I think I have!

We booked for three. Yes, three because my “I-like-simple-traditional-food-and-I-would-have-never-ventured-in-a-mission-like-this” dad is visiting. And has spontaneously, totally spontaneously, decided to join us. Truth is, he is too nice and polite to say no and we are mean and sadistic and wanted to challenge him!

But let’s go back to business. We walk into the restaurant and realise there are five people in total: Edo, Super-dad, the 2 owners and I so we agree to “forget” about the reservation and simply ask for a table. We choose to sit in the basement: a large room, ikea-ish furnished with b&w pictures (nice) of Albania on the wall and artistic patches of plaster coming off it.

I was getting my tools ready (no, nothing fancy…just a pen and piece of paper…sorry to disappoint!) when Edo says: “this is Italian”. Ehmm…no, we are doing “A” not “I”; this is AL-BA-NIAN. But he’s right! The menu is in Italian! We are all lost in translation here…or lost in the kitchen…?!? Luckily, this Ita-nian restaurant has Albanian specials for dinner. The selection is very limited, basically 5 dishes none of which similar to Greek food (naughty Wikipedia: you told me it would have been!). The owner, who was actually rather nice and sweet, tells us the portions are big and a Meze for 2 is more than enough for us three happy pilgrims. Edo (watch out people, the guy is a rebel…) is in for the Meze but he’s also determined to have his big Qebapa (seasoned minced beef). As for me, well, I’m just going with the flow and WHAT A JOY when I see an orgy of meat walking towards me! Never mind, I will be strong…so, on the table:

– Pitta with pepper dip (ok)
– Meze consisting of a bit of everything (in other words, a sausage feast)
– Qebapa (again! Was already the Meze’s superstar…)

First bite all ok, nice and spicy; second bite…well, I don’t know since I didn’t try! According to my fellows all tasted the same, apart from the chicken and the bread which turn out to be the highlights of the dinner. Even my dad liked it and he usually hates “feathers”!!!

Oh, I forgot to mention the Greek salad (sorry Wikipedia, there actually is something Greek on the list!) which was very…oniony, I suppose…
We finish our wine which helps wash away the…the…ehm, the…”the mush” and pay our £35 bill.

As silent as they walked in, the three happy pilgrims leave Alba Grill and sink back into the night. And drive as fast as they can to a bottle of whisky!!!

  • Food: 1
  • Ambience: 1.5
  • Service: 2
  • Value: 2
  • Overall: 1.6
This was the only Albanian restaurant we could find in London so there was no choosing to do. The place looks like a cafe from the outside, a shabby one but acceptable. The downstairs room however is more like an old fashioned canteen or a fast food seating area. The vintage photos of Albania on the wall are great, but that’s about as far as positive comments can go with regards to ambience.

If I were to rate this as a place for a quick lunch my judgment would be different, but having to use the same criteria I apply to the places I like to spend my evening meals in, I am sorry to say it is one of the worst-looking I have ever been. This wasn’t helped by the fact that we were the only customers: an empty shabby dining room looks much worse than a busy one.

Service was very kind an helpful, the owner was gentle, friendly and polite. He advised us multiple times that portions were huge and to order less, which he was right about.

I was at first disappointed to see that the menu had mostly Italian dishes, with one page only reserved to Albanian specialties. This was irrelevant though as we were advised the dinner menu consisted only of the Albanian section which was the reason we were there anyway.

We had the assorted selection. First came two spreads with pita bread, one based on peppers and tomatoes, one peppers with creamy cheese. They were both good, in a not-particularly-good-but-not-bad kind of way.

Then came a huge, huge selection of meats accompanied by equally massive quantities of tomatoes and cucumber salad. The chicken was really good, by all means the highlight of the meal: it was juicy, tender, gently spiced, tasty.

The other three meats all essentially consisted of the same fine mince mixed with spices and made into different shapes: kebab, kite, and a hamburger-type shape. They also were of three different spice levels: very gentle, spicy, hot. The first taste was ok for all of them, but after the second and the third they all started to taste the same, equally rubbery and too loaded with onion and garlic.

The amount of food was phenomenal, however we rapidly got bored and ended up only finishing the chicken. We all had Gaviscon and whisky when home to wash the whole meal away.

We spent £30 for three people including two glasses of wine, i.e. nothing for the amount of food we had. However, we ate pretty badly: I would rather have spent five times more for a good meal.

  • Food: 1.5
  • Ambience: 1
  • Service: 2.5
  • Value: 2
  • Overall: 1.75