If you’re yearning for a visit to England and you can’t get there anytime soon, you might drop by the Olde English Pub & Pantry to see what you’re missing.
Built somewhere around 1736, the Old English inhabits the oldest occupied building in Albany. And what a lovely building it is. The nicely proportioned two-story brick colonial with six-over-six double hung windows and green wood shutters is set well back from Broadway, allowing plenty of room for outdoor dining or to take a selfie with the red English telephone booth.
You enter immediately into the bar, which is wood-paneled, dim and bustling. The online menu lists 19 kinds of scotch, 16 beers on tap, and liquors from the Albany Distilling Company.
You won’t be surprised to see fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, mulligatawny soup and piccalilli on the menu and, this being Albany, there is American bar food like pub wings and burgers.
The Olde English Pub & Pantry
WHERE: 683 Broadway, Albany, 434-6533, www.theoldeenglish.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
HOW MUCH: $38.98 before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Accommodations made for children’s meals. Not wheelchair accessible.
It’s super charming and cozy, with fireplaces, wood timbered ceilings and plaster walls decorated with framed photos and handsome mirrors. We headed up the stairs past the Union Jack hanging on the wall to the second floor.
The second-floor dining room has large windows that are treated with simply knotted sheers. The wooden tables and mismatched chairs feel just right in this room with dark wainscoting and wood trim and light-colored walls. The brick fireplace is surmounted by a gilt-framed mirror and sconces, and there’s a Bristle dart board in a cabinet nearby. We chose a table next to a window.
Lisa started with colcannon croquettes ($8), a deep-fried twist on the classic mashed potatoes and cabbage dish. This had a bit of smoky bacon, ham and corned beef, in a crisp brown coating served over coarse mustard.
The steak, ale and cheddar soup ($7) had chunks of beef that broke apart easily with my spoon, caramelized onion and celery. I could taste the beer, Newcastle Ale, and cheddar in the delicious, full-flavored broth.
I also tasted quite a bit of salt, but I like salt. It was served with a handsome hunk of French bread (a dollar extra) heated until the crust was a rich brown. It wasn’t piping hot, but warm enough.
Our server was friendly and helpful, but brought us the next course before the first was finished, necessitating the awkward moving around of plates on a table not quite big enough for both.
Olde English has traditional Fish and Chips ($14). Lisa enjoyed a hearty serving of enormous planks of battered, flaky white fish that hung over the sides of the paper-lined plastic basket on a mound of piping hot, salty steak fries. The homemade coleslaw was well-received; it was zesty but not too vinegary. I helped out with the fries.
I enjoyed the Beef Wellington Bites ($9), an appetizer that worked just right as a meal after the soup and bread. Top sirloin, mushrooms, ham and grainy mustard were wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden. The steak was well done but tender and though I couldn’t taste the ham, the rest rounded out the flavor. Delicious, with a good ratio of meat and seasoning to pastry. I’ll try this at home.
My only regret is that I didn’t try the sticky toffee pudding ($7), a moist brown cake with toffee sauce made from butter, brown sugar and heavy cream.
It’s not something often see here, and it’s husband Eric’s favorite dessert as long as it’s served with ice cream or whipped cream, preferably both.
The Olde English is a satisfying American interpretation of an charming English pub. It’s friendly and casual, and worth a visit.