Gordon Ramsay brings listed inn back to life

FOR years, the York and Albany was a crumbling architectural gem on English Heritage s at risk register . Part of Nash s scheme for Regent s Park, its listed status meant it couldn t be bulldozed. But after decades lying derelict, who would have the cash

FOR years, the York and Albany was a crumbling architectural gem on English Heritage's "at risk register".

Part of Nash's scheme for Regent's Park, its listed status meant it couldn't be bulldozed. But after decades lying derelict, who would have the cash to bring the old coaching inn back to life?

The answer was Gordon Ramsay, the ubiquitous TV chef who in recent years has expanded from fine central London dining to neighbourhood gastropubs.

Ramsay wisely decided not to gastrofy this elegant building, which if you gaze beyond the unlovely five-way junction at the top of Parkway, is just a stone's throw from the park's outer circle.

He also wisely put the project in the hands of prot�g�e Angela Hartnett, who has overseen its transformation into a restaurant, bar and 10 boutique hotel rooms that are both chic and cosy.

The main room has an understated glamour that blends period features like the Regency cornicing with a contemporary taupe colour scheme and lovely zinc-topped wooden bar.

Most Read

By day, it is light and airy and has become a hit with local yummy mummies who pile in for bar snacks, including pizzas from the wood-fired oven in the adjoining rustic deli.

By night, with the curtains closed and the lighting dimmed, it feels like a private club for wealthy, in the know Londoners - a club you'd aspire to be part of.

The bar, with its rows of rare branded spirits, was occupied by well-heeled types sprawling on sofas, drinking cocktails or grazing from snacks. It's certainly not a pub (the prices prohibit that at �17 for a round of two drinks) but it's not up itself formal either and you can relax in leather winged armchairs with a glass of pre-prandial prosecco.

Downstairs, there's a private dining room and adjoining that, a bustling open kitchen with sexy bordello-red walls and banquettes where diners are enveloped in the heady scent of searing meats while they watch the chefs do their stuff.

We ate in a ground-floor modern extension off the bar, low lit, discreet, overlooking a paved outdoor area that does a roaring trade on summer evenings.

Hartnett oversees the menu but the head chef is Colin Buchan and between them they have created diligently sourced, impeccably cooked dishes that sit comfortably between hearty pub fare and Michelin-fiddly dining.

Hartnett's Italian heritage is in evidence on a menu that included starters of ravioli stuffed with slow-braised lamb shank and a star turn of risotto with quail breast and chorizo that had a depth of meaty flavour my chap voted first rate.

My salmon tartar with quail's eggs, pickled cucumber and a dollop of cr�me fraiche with not enough of the advertised horseradish was pleasant and light but I couldn't help gazing enviously at the risotto.

The chap is champion at ordering in restaurants - it's a feature of our relationship that I always covet what he's having. So while he tucked into melting calf cheek with unctuous parsnip puree and onion compote, I wondered whether my healthier date quinoia, salsify, pear and apple puree, topped by a beautifully seared meltingly tender loin of venison, was quite as good.

After all that self-restraint, the dessert had to be chocolate so I chose a rich marquise with brightly flavoured passion-fruit sorbet.

The wine list starts at �17 for a Multipulciano. But not being Italian wine lovers, we opted for a Languedoc Pic St Loup, which at �29 should have been better than it was.

With starters ranging from �7.50 to �9.50, the mains from �17 to �45 for a shared dish of Casterbridge beef with all the trimmings, and no need to supplement with cheeky extras, a meal for two would come in at around �100.

But the set three-course lunch of �20 and the all-Sunday �25 set menu - with all that opportunity for dishes infused with fatty meat juices - look like a bargain.

* The York and Albany also has 10 boutique bedrooms from �180 a night which combine all mod cons with a period sensitive colour scheme and furnishings and huge Regency sash windows.

Bookings on 020-7388 3344.

Bridget Galton