THE Alma is a wonderful example of a typical London pub dating from the mid 1800s that has retained a lot of its old character and charm but also moved with the times.
Step inside from the shiny green tiled exterior and domed roof and on a busy Friday evening you are hit with a crescendo of noise from the buzzing bar area.
But once you have side stepped the happy revellers who find yourself in a relaxed dining area which serves exceptionally good gastropub food.
Built in 1866 the pub's name commemorates the Crimean Battle at Alma in 1854 and it has come a long way – retaining a lot of the old charm and character – to the present day where it now also boasts 23 boutique style bedrooms.
Away from the vibrant pub area you immediately feel relaxed in the tastefully recently re-decorated main dining area which has soothing cool blue walls and a wonderful white decorative plaster frieze which was restored to its former glory in 1987.
I was instantly impressed by the quality of the menu which was shouting out with dishes of fresh, exciting ingredients and plenty of imagination.
My companion quickly spotted the seared scallops with squid ink risotto and crispy pancetta (£7.50) and my eye was taken by the wild mushroom and tarragon ravioli, rocket leaves and truffle cream veloute (£7.50).
Neither dish disappointed our taste buds. The scallops simply melted in the mouth with the pancetta adding a lovely salty crunch while the perfectly cooked squid ink risotto brought back memories of a similar stunning dish on a holiday in Croatia several years ago.
The ravioli was delicate with bite and the filling was not over powered by the tarragon and the smooth, soft velvety taste of the veloute brought all the flavours together on the plate.
It was a busy Friday night service but the standards were high with highly efficient and attentive friendly staff making you feel very welcome.
A bottle of Crystal Brook South Australian 2008 unoaked Chardonnay was slipping down well with its fruity bouquet perfect for the dishes we ordered.
I was impressed with my main dish of pan seared Shetland salmon fillet, mussels, new potato and wilted baby gem broth (£14.50). It was a light combination beautifully cooked and the fresh, subtle taste of the broth brought everything together perfectly.
There was no subtlety about my partner's chorizo and goats cheese stuffed corn fed chicken supreme with roasted root vegetables, curly kale and a thyme jus (£13.50).
This was one big flavour explosion from the lovely tender chicken to the spicy chorizo and strong goats cheese it just got better and better leaving my partner to remark as she took the last tantalising mouthful ' I don't want this dish to end' . Everything on the plate worked for each other and it delivered a wonderful strong aromatic aroma across the table.
Both dishes were also superbly seasoned and all the vegetables - including the green beans in shallot butter side we ordered – had real bite to them and a fresh gardeny taste. A tribute to head chef Martin O'Brien and his team who can be heard calling away the orders from the open plan kitchen as you dine.
As the buzz from the early evening drinkers in the bar started to die down I finished off with honeycombe parfait baked Alaska (£5.95) and my partner had a selection of the Alma's homemade ice cream and sorbets (£5.25), of which the mixed berry sorbet was the winner with a wicked taste of fruit just bursting out of the plate.
The Alaska was well constructed and the meringue light and fluffy I loved the drizzle of strawberry sauce and mint on the plate, this desert is obviously a favourite.
Situated opposite Wandsworth Town railway station and with bus stops right outside The Alma is well served by public transport if you don't fancy driving and just a stone's through from Wandsworth Bridge.