ANCHOR AND HOPE: A CUT ABOVE
There is a restaurant called St John and a gastropub (the original) called The Eagle which begat several places of note one of which was the Anchor and Hope near Waterloo. HS and I had avoided visiting because of the no-booking policy (we just won’t queue…for anything). In the face of glowing reviews we just pretended the place didn’t exist. Even when drinking just around the corner in the vodka bar, Baltic, when the conversation turned to where to eat it never made the shortlist. In other words we hated it and we’d never even been.
HS’s trip to the good ol US of Stateside temporarily broke the spell and a pending night in with some beer, bread and cheese (well, Young's Kew Brew, Poilane Rye and Keen’s Cheddar) settled it. I made a date with my good friends Anny and Gavin (Bill Nighy). With a brief stop at a City office to watch the FA Cup penalty shoot-out I made it down to The Cut just as the restaurant was opening. Bill (sorry, Gavin) was as usual surrounded a gaggle of tourists clamouring for his autograph so I went to secure us a table and me a beer. Both were achieved with no fuss and that was it. We were in.
The room, in case you’ve never been (and there can’t be many food-loving Londoners who haven’t) was designed by David Collins and cost ten million pounds. With napery by Frette, stemware by Riedel and Royal Doulton Bone China it will please those who care about such things. I don’t, so some of the above may not be totally accurate. I was having such a good time enjoying my food I never noticed.
The menu is just the right size (A4) and is just full of things you want to eat. We quickly decided upon some Bloater paste, new season English Asparagus and a Pork and Herb Terrine. The waitress anticipated that we would be sharing and bought extra plates – sometimes it’s the little things that impress.
The terrine although not up to that complex slab of loveliness I had at Vinoteca was good: meaty and dense. Extra interest was added by the accompanying anchovy butter on toast. The bloater paste was light and creamy with a pepper-enhanced farewell and very moreish. The asparagus was cooked perfectly and tasted of a nascent summer.
I had the spirit of HS at my shoulder insisting that we order the suckling lamb for our next course. The waitress told me they usually get this from the Pyrenees but were now using a Cumbrian lamb. Whatever, it came in a vast dish filled with the delicious braising liquor which was filled with all manner of good things (greens, potatoes, butter beans). Gavin (sorry, Bill) came up trumps with a delicious Chateau Le Cedre Cahors. The only thing lacking was a decent knife to carve the bugger. Larger than a Spanish Lechazo, Larry was nonetheless equally enjoyable. Crisp skin, sweet lamby meat. We had some steamed and buttered spring greens but really didn’t need them.
After the brief intercoursal fag relay we decided to go the extra mile and chose a Chocolate Pot, Almond Tart and Rhubarb fool. All were v. good the tart especially so. Instead of the usual dried up, sugary, fridge fresh confection we got a moist, crumbly, not oversweet, wedge that was served tiede with a dollop of Clotted Cream. The other two desserts showed an equally light hand with the sugar spoon.
As we wandered out to the pub bit for a night cap the place was busy but not chaotic. Apparently the wait for a table was now about 90 minutes, not such a long time if you’re having a couple of cocktails in the bar beforehand. A special word about the service. Despite the less than complementary things I’d head I found it, even when the place was full, to be spot-on.
We took our liqueurs at a pavement table, shivering as a cold northerly blew down The Cut and the storm clouds hove into view. A perfect English summer’s ending for a perfect English supper.