The Anchor & Hope
On Sunday I was overcome by a powerful need for tapas. Unfortunately I had forgotten that London doesn’t do tapas of a Sunday. Moro is shut, Salt Yard is shut, even my local places knock off after lunch. Barrafina is open but who wants to schlep into Soho on a Sunday night? Instead we ending up going to a local bistro, The Fox Reformed. I had heard that it was worth attending for the wine, the venue and the food in that order and so it proved. Nice glass of Shiraz, cosy table, decent but deeply unremarkable French grub (the highlight of which were actually the lovely bread rolls so that tells you something).
So yesterday I found myself in Waterloo with my tapas itch unscratched. I picked the missus up from work with the intention of popping down The Cut to Meson Don Felipe. As you will probably have gathered from the title of this blog post, we didn’t make it. N pulled me up short at the Anchor & Hope. I have been meaning to go to the Anchor & Hope for pretty much the whole of the last decade but I’d already discounted since it doesn’t take bookings and it is always rammed. I looked sceptically through the window into the heaving pub. N is much more of the nothing ventured, nothing gained school of thought and amazingly we were instantly shown to a table. Or at least the corner of one, they make the most of their space by seating multiple people at the same table.
The Anchor & Hope is the sister pub to 32 Great Queen Street and has the same focus on British seasonal food. Fearing the pressures of time we moved straight to mains meaning I had to forego an alluring salad of snails and bacon. N went straight for seabass, a great wodge on the bone rather than the usual fillet. This was offset with a dollop of tapanade, a dollop of creme fraiche and some wonderfully smokey greens of mysterious provenace. I hovered. I quite fancied the duck but duck with lentils and aioli? The combination seemed a bit off. I fancied veal milanese even more but it came with anchovy dressing and the herring debacle was still fresh in my mind. It is a dish I last had fifteen years ago when my gran cooked it for me and I’ve often thought about it since but you don’t see it very often. I couldn’t really pass up the opportunity and, after a quick, reassuring chat with the waiter, I took the plunge. Along came two lovely escalopes, safely quarantined from a huge pile of green beans, dressed in that dangerous dressing. I needn’t have worried as the use of anchovies turned out to be light, subtle and delightful.
I said we skipped starters but I lied. We couldn’t help overselves and ordered salt cod brandade to go with our mains. It worked really well with both the dishes but wasn’t really needed given the quantities of our mains. It was also rather over-complicated. You’ve got the brandade on a bit of toast. Great. Sharp little cherry tomatoes? Yeah, that goes nicely. Half a soft boiled egg? Erm, that’s a bit superfluous. Massively salty olives to go with your salty fish? No, thanks. So I did get my tapas in the end but I didn’t really want it all on one plate.
Heartiness is part of the ethos of the Anchor & Hope. So is meatiness. They do massive cuts of meat to share which is slightly vexing for me because for all N’s inumerable charms, wolfing down flesh is not one of them. As we were leaving the table next to us received lamb for four, accompanied by a vast tray of gratin. It looked amazing and worked out at £12 per person which must be considered a bargain. One day…
For us it was £33 pound a head, including service, a chocolate pot and drinks, which were the only duff part of the meal. Obviously I started with fizz but the pear and prosecco leaned to heavily to the prosecco. N had been the week for lunch and said it was a much superior mix then. I then followed this with a surprisingly muddy pint of Kirin. To my wife’s disgust I then bypassed the single malts to order a Jameson’s. Look, sometimes I just prefer a blended with food, okay?