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

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Flash ahead to a yummy playback
Just you and me in a room

It seems like most of the recent major London restaurant openings have been delayed for one reason or another, usually planning problems. The opening of L’Anima, a new Italian eatery in a little snicket near Spitalfields, has been imminent for almost five months - all because of a dispute over an extension of not much more than a metre. Who’d open a restaurant eh ?

The area between, City Road and Spitafields, where L’Anima is located is a bit of a culinary wasteland and there’s not a great deal of choice if you want a relaxing beverage (there’s plenty of grim watering holes like All Bar One though, if you like to drink pissy lager) so I think L’Anima will be welcomed by all the City boys and girls in the hood.

I really like the interior of L’Anima which was designed by architect Claudio Silvestrin: all clean lines, plenty of light. I’m just wondering though how quickly those nice white chairs are going to last if they have slobs like me visiting. I hope they’re wipe clean.

The menu is not huge but I was told that they’ll gradually add to it as time goes by and various bit of kitchen kit like the Josper Grill eventually come online. It’s nice though that they at least make their own bread and some great fennel grissini which I kept eating and eating… There was plenty of good Tuscan Olive Oil to dip bread in and big fat juicy olives to go with my glass of Prosecco.

A good test of a kitchen is their deep-frying. The Fritto Misto I had showed that the kitchen has this mastered. Very fresh shellfish: Baby Squid, Soft-shell crab and Prawns had been fried so that they were light, crisp and greaseless. They were topped with some deep fried herbs and shreds of fried zucchini. After finishing the dish there was none of the oily aftertaste you sometimes get with inexpertly fried food.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly wasn’t quite as successful. The pork had a great flavour but the crackling wasn’t crisp enough – a major sin with belly pork. The deep-fried zucchini however were a winner - there was nary a grease stain on the paper they came on.

Chef and part-owner Francesco Mazzei was popping out now and again to check on things so when he found out my favourite sweet was ice cream he very kindly sent out a procession of sorbetti and gelati for me to try. Top of a trio of sorbetti was watermelon which, like that fruit, was very refreshing. There was also one of sharp lemon and one of fragrant peach.

Whilst I was waiting for the Chocolate ice cream to be made I had a tasty Pistachio and some Vanilla that came with splinters of Caramel aka Croccantino. The Chocolate variety was also excellent and was sprinkled with little caramelised hazelnuts.

I was obviously making the right sort of noises (most people usually tell me to be quiet) because another pud was sent out for me. This was possibly the best of the lot, a light moist amaretto tart encasing some rhubarb with a palette cleansing rhubarb sorbet on top, all sitting in a puddle of crème anglaise. A double espresso and grappa was never so well earned.

I had a good time here. The dishes are not cheap but the quality of the ingredients is excellent and the preparation sympathetic to those ingredients. And even without the extra desserts I would have felt nicely replete. Service was on the ball and everyone seemed very enthusiastic about the opening (as they should be) but best of all there was a sense of soul about the whole operation which funnily enough is just what L’Anima means.

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