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|Address:||1 Snowden Street, London EC2A 2DQ|
|Tel:||020 3463 7528|
|Price: £60.00||Wine: £22.00||Champagne: £60.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Fri 11.45am-3pm Mon-Sat 5.30-11pm (Sat -11.30pm)|
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It is perhaps unfair that, after four or five faultless visits to L’Anima over the last few years, I chose this one to write about. Maybe it was the timing; we went late one Wednesday evening, post theatre when the restaurant was thinning out. We were the last to be fed and the table of three ladies-what-cocktail over the far side of the room had been (and continued to be) properly lubricated. Maybe it was just a one-off. Maybe it is just that it is not as good as I remember it.
The room has always been the least interesting part of the restaurant: it is a cavern. High ceilings, a big wall of glass with stark, hard stone floor. In other words, it is not gezellig; you don’t get a warm and cuddly feeling when you walk in. It is harsh. It is hard. You get the shrieking of the cocktail table amplified across the other side of the room. (If you have the private room, you need to keep the door closed, as the noise seems to be funnelled through the doorway, as if through a sonic magnifier, making it quite impossible to hear your neighbour). Given that this is the City, and that Deals are no doubt being Done, it seems an odd set-up.
Nonetheless, the food has always been excellent. Up to this time. I don’t know if I have some anti-food vibe that only comes out on my birthday, but it seems that this time of year brings the biggest disappointment to my meals. A few years ago my birthday evening libations were taken at Scotts (like L’Anima, a Square Meal three star); people had been raving about it and I wanted desperately to find a really great fish restaurant in town. I hated it. This year’s 21st was spent at L’Anima. Same thing: if this had been my first visit, I’d never return. It wasn’t so I will give it another chance.
We started with a perfectly adequate plate of ham and the fried courgette flowers. I love this time of year when courgette flowers are in the markets. Stuff with some cheese, dip in a light, tempura batter, fry until golden and sprinkle some sea salt over them. Gorgeous; light, simple, tasty. Here they had been stuffed with mozzarella (a nice touch, lots of stringy cheese to play with), but then dipped in the sort of heavy batter that gives fish and chips a good name. Yes it was crispy, but it overpowered the flowers and was dripping in oil. Instead of some nice absorbent paper to soak the excess up, it was on greaseproof paper. This repels not absorbs. So the oil sat their, glistening up at me; I am sure that it was daring me to say something, but I couldn’t hear it over the cocktail table.
The ham was perfectly pleasant, if the slices were a little on the thick side, accompanied by a few slices of tomato bread. Nice, but not up there with a good Jamon Iberica and pan con tomate.
The mains were better: it was perhaps my fault for going for a second fatty dish, but the pork belly, whilst as nice a piece of the meat as you will get, had rendered less of its fat during its slow roast than I’d have liked and the smears that accompanied it were unidentifiable. Crab linguine was the star mind: the pasta perfectly cooked, the crab given piquancy by the right amount of chilli. This shows what the kitchen can produce and, at these prices, there is no excuse for thinking that we ordered badly: everything should be fantastic.
The sommelier was very helpful, coming up with a lovely Tuscan to complement the meat and fish. Unless you are in a wine bar, however, the wine shouldn’t be the star. The food should.
So we left, a little deflated, a little disappointed. As we passed the cocktail table, I pretty sure I heard one ask: when shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain? Well, I don’t know when I will be back. It certainly will not be my birthday next year.