"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Ok, I admit it. I was wrong. It has been known to happen. Not often, mind, but it has been known.

But, I was finally persuaded by HP to join him at Anchor & Hope in Waterloo and I rather liked it. Hated the room, loved the rest, but more of that later.

I had been on a course all day (Torso Training, if you must know) and agreed to meet HP afterwards for a pint at The Market Porter before heading for supper to Master Superfish in Waterloo.

In Rotherham, if any pub is rumoured to serve a “ bad pint” word soon gets around and that unlucky establishment soon begins to resemble the Marie Celeste. Well, unfortunately, in London, people don’t seem to care because The Market Porter serves a noxiously bad pint and, being so much part of the Borough Market scene, it was packed to the rafters. We ordered one pint of mild. It was disgusting. We asked them to change it and chose a bitter. It was worse. Like someone had given us a glass from the slops bucket or no one knew how to wash the pipes out. Give me the Wenlock Arms any day. We took one sip of the second pint, grimaced and walked out. Did anyone give a flying toss? Of course not. They were too busy selling pints of crappy Magner’s with ice to young folk.

So, we traipsed to Brewarf hoping that their homebrewed beer would be better. It wasn’t. They have renamed some of their beers after the favourites of the now defunct Youngs Brewery. The resemblance stops there. There were definitely “Ordinary” and not “Special” and certainly not the “ Best” Better than those at the Market Porter but not by much.

Ho Hum!

Dispirited, we decided to head to Waterloo. En route, we realised that we were close to Gambia St and Mar I Terra, a passable Tapas bar near Southwark Station. Not really worth stopping for a full meal but, a good stopping off point for a reviving drink and a plate O’ pig. A half bottle of La Gitana Manzanilla and a plate of Pata Negra took the taste of that vile beer out of our mouths and put us in much better spirits.

As we walked along The Cut to Waterloo Rd and our planned large plate of Fish & Chips, we passed The Anchor & Hope. I have railed in a true “ nose to spite my face” kind of way against this place for as long as it had been open because of its non booking policy. Despite the fact that all who I know who have been there tell me that it is the place that “ St John used to be” I have stood firm and defiant.

Last night, however, as we passed by, we noticed the room was empty. HP, got the whiff of beef in his nostrils and found it hard to pass by. I insisted though that if the wait was going to be any more than 15 minutes, we would stick to our original plan. Sure in the knowledge that we would be told we had to wait two hours and I would be reaffirmed in my dislike of this place based on nothing more than my own prejudice.

No such luck, we were shown straight to a table for two by an exceptionally friendly waitress and some excellent bread and butter was plonked down before I had chance to complain.

I really didn’t like the room. Curtained off, small and cramped with uncomfortable chairs. I just kept thinking “ it had damn well better be good” Thankfully, it was. Flawed in places, but on the whole worthy of the fuss and attention it has received.

While we pondered on the menu, we ordered a small carafe of Xacoli from the well chosen wine list.

Starters were slightly disappointing and I began to think this was not going to be all it was cracked up to be and I would have another reason to dislike it. A foie Gras ballotine and a pigeon terrine were, as HP has coined the phrase “ fridge fresh” and lacked sufficient seasoning. The bread with it was excellent though.

The poor Portugese waitress looked most disconcerted when we ordered out main course. We decided to go for the Rib of beef for two (£40 )with fat chips and béarnaise sauce. That would have been fine but, when she asked if we wanted any sides, we asked for another main course, The faggot with broad and green beans. “ That’s far too much food” she implored. “ don’t worry about it, love” I replied. “ The beef is very large” she tried again. “ really, don’t worry about it, love” I replied.

Finally, she rolled her eyes and said “ don’t say I didn’t warn you” as she walked off to put the order in.

In reality, there was nothing for any of us to be concerned about. Portions were indeed very big but, nothing that DH have not faced before and certainly nothing that HP could not have managed on his own let alone with help from a younger sibling. This is a man, after all, who ate Peter Luger’s Porterhouse for two on his own with nothing more than a couple of Martini’s to wash it down.

The faggot was excellent if a little under seasoned. Cooked off in caul fat and sat on top of unshelled young broad beans and green beans. A nice distraction but no match for the beef which was redolent of the chuleton we have regularly in Spain. Beautifully rare, unafraid to wallow in its fat and with the bone to provide gnawage potential at the end. The fat chips were not great. A proplem, HP argues with the notion of fat chips themselves rather than any failure in the kitchen. It makes them hard to crisp up and floury in the middle. However, the real star was the sauce. Bernaise sauce is, if I remember my philosophy classes from University, one of Barclay’s proofs of the existence of God. This was as good an example as I have ever tried. Unctuous, thick and sharp. I just sat and spooned it into my mouth and then asked for another big bowl which they happily brought immediately. Spectacular.

An inconsequential Pic St Loup from the Laungedoc failed to live up to the flavours of the beef. Our fault for ordering. It would have been fine with most dishes on the menu and was a staple on the St John wine list for years.

Puddings were also from the “ St J stable” and all the better for it. A gooseberry fool and cherry tart. Not much to report, the pictures speak for themselves.

The bill, including impeccable service, came to £115. Again, this reflects our ability to order another main course alongside our meal. I still think it represented pretty good value for money.

So, that was what all the fuss was about. Now, if only they started taking reservations, I would lose all my, er, reservations.

P.S The picture of St Paul’s is for no other reason than I thought it looked stunning as we pottered North and towards civilisation.
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