ALBANY — Wellington’s restaurant in the gloriously restored DeWitt Clinton, now Renaissance Albany Hotel, at the top of State Street, is as handsome and stylish as its patrons, who all look like they just came from the Capitol across the street. It’s a lively place to be seen, with a high-spirited bar crowd and sleek decor, and a striking view of the illuminated Capitol.
Wellington’s at the Renaissance Albany Hotel
WHERE: 144 State St., Albany, 992-2432, wellingtonsalb.com
WHEN: 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for lunch, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner Monday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for brunch, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner Saturday and Sunday
HOW MUCH: $79, not including alcohol, tax and tip
MORE INFO: Reservations at www.opentable.com/wellingtons-at-the-renaissance-hotel-albany. Wheelchair accessible. Valet parking available.
It’s exactly the kind of place you’d go to meet friends after a concert or after work, for a drink and shared plate of smart snacks made from local, sustainable food.
It’s hard to tell where the bar ends and the restaurant begins. Nothing wrong with that, just so you know there isn’t a quiet table to be had, a fact that Mary and I learned as we tried to distance ourself from a boisterous group in the dining area.
If you’re driving, plan on using valet parking, which at $7 seems like a better idea than the pay lot two blocks away.
Wellington’s menu is composed of simple, mostly house-made American-style food. There are snacks like Saratoga chips with horseradish sour cream (99 cents) and “Sharables” including mac and cheese with smoked pork belly confit ($9), salads like baby spinach with goat cheese and local apples and maple dressing ($12).
Entrees include salmon ($24), Hudson Valley duck confit ($21), and long-braised short ribs ($32).
We ordered drinks, Matua Sauvignon Blanc for me ($10) and a dry Manhattan for Mary, a two-ingredient drink that should not prove difficult for bartenders outfitted in suspenders and bow ties who can produce any drink out of several pages of the cocktail menu.
The first Manhattan was made with sweet Vermouth and bitters. “Just try it,” the server insisted after Mary pointed out that it didn’t look right. Much later, an improved one arrived, about an inch and a half of drink in a saucer-style champagne glass.
We recommend the endive salad ($9), pale and glamorous, with Maytag blue cheese, thinly sliced radishes and mustard vinaigrette. Mary loved the toasted hazelnuts.
I didn’t love the corn chowder ($7) though the bits of bacon confit packed a smoky, satisfying punch. “I can see why you’d add salt,” Mary said, after tasting it. It was not so much creamy as starchy; good but not outstanding.
All three specials sounded terrific, and Mary was pleased with the fennel-encrusted swordfish ($28), a thick, generous piece neatly trimmed of skin. The singed fennel gave the perfectly cooked grilled fish a bright, pleasant anise flavor. Topped with fresh grape tomatoes and chives and served over a tidy bed of couscous, it was a sophisticated dish, well-executed.
Their seared half chicken ($24) is exceptional, moist and flavorful, with a bit of crunch to the skin and a to-die-for intensely flavored reduced sauce. The accompanying half-Brussels sprouts and sliced baby carrots could have been cooked a bit more, but the chicken and sauce were a perfect ten.
Room for dessert
Leave room for fine homemade desserts, at $6 a very good deal. My grapefruit-topped panna cotta flecked with vanilla bean seeds couldn’t be better and Mary’s Indian Ladder apple crisp was the most interesting dish of the night. The cake held its own under the amazing raspberry sorbet and liqueur-soaked fresh cranberries and shaved white chocolate.
Service was a bit uneven, with plates arriving before the previous ones had been cleared, but attentive.
The food tab before tax and tip came to $79. The separate bar tab included a staggering $23 for the dry Manhattan even though those in the drinks menu topped out at $12.
Consultation with the manager resulted in a $10 reduction in the tab; somehow the server had chosen Hill Rock Rye, a premium product, for the drink.
We enjoyed a pleasant meal in a smart setting and we’ll visit again, perhaps after a show or to meet friends for drinks after work.