Albertine – A brief history
Albertine was opened by Camilla Murray and Sarah McEverdy (mother of chef Allegra) in December 1978. I took over from Sarah in July 1980 and have been sole proprietor since April 1983.
It is fair to say that there wouldn’t have been much point in opening a wine bar in Shepherd’s Bush at that time had it not been for the presence of the BBC. Not only was there Television Centre (now closed) but Kensington House (now K West Hotel), Lime Grove (now flats), The TV Theatre (now the 02 Empire), Sulgrave House (now flats) and Threshold & Union House (now offices). BBC White City was still a stadium and greyhound track whilst BBC Woodlands has been built and demolished in this time.
BBC staff therefore, were the majority of our customers for many years and we developed strong relationships with many programmes. When I first started the producers of Smiley’s People were here virtually every evening.
Breakfast time started in 1983 and it was not long before they were coming in every Friday, starting(illegally!) at 9.30 in the morning and often continuing through until the evening. This tradition, fondly remembered by many, continued for many years until the programme became 7 days a week. Newsnight was another programme to come here a lot and we did two legendary Christmas parties for them, the second of which was halted by the police at 2.30am.
Perhaps most well-known was our relationship with Eastenders. Creators Tony Holland and Julia Smith were very regular customers and wrote their pitch to the head of drama here. They were here when the first episode was broadcast and held script meetings here for some years.
However over the years more residents and other businesses moved into the area and we didn’t have to rely on the BBC quite so much though there are still plenty of them about. For many years Shepherd’s Bush seemed to change at a snail’s pace. The opening of Westfield 5 years ago changed all that.
The basic layout of the bar area has changed very little since the opening whilst the upstairs room was opened in 1985. In those days lunchtimes were incredibly busy and the evenings often rather quiet. Now it is completely the other way round.
The raison d’etre of the bar has not changed much either: to serve good wine with simple homely food and allow people the time and space to talk to each other without too much fuss and interruption. Over time the wine list has developed rather a lot, known for its breadth of choice and good value, gaining two prestigious awards. Albertine was also Evening Standard Wine Bar of The Year in 1997.
The fact that we are still here owes much to the many wonderful people who have worked here over the years, many of whom have become lifelong friends spread all over the world.