Tried & Tested

Restaurant check: L’Anima

19 Aug 2013 by Jenny Southan
BACKGROUND This urbane Italian restaurant, tucked away on the border between the trendy Old Street area in East London and the slick financial district of the City, opened in 2008 under the ownership of award-winning Calabrian chef Francesco Mazzei. Over the years, his career has included positions at the Dorchester hotel and the Michelin-starred Eden Terrazza at the Eden hotel in Rome, as well as Franco’s in London’s Mayfair. THE RESTAURANT The interior of L’Anima has been designed by Italian architect Claudio Silvestrin. The large light-filled space has floor-to-ceiling windows, pitch-perfect lighting, views to a glass-fronted kitchen, and a minimalist approach to design with an emphasis on natural materials – from purplish-grey porphyry stone walls, and wood and limestone floors, to green South African marble and white leather chairs. There is also a private dining room for up to 14 guests seated under curved, crypt-like ceilings, the Mezzanine area for 11 people, and a glass-fronted wine cellar seating up to six diners for a meal, surrounded by racks of bottles. L’Anima itself can be booked for private events of up to 80 people seated. The restaurant feels smart, polished and professional, qualities that are shared by the clientele, most of whom are dressed in suits and ties, especially at lunchtime. L’Anima is, after all, an excellent place for businesspeople to entertain, being tucked away on peaceful Snowden Street in the City. Staff are charming and attentive, providing service with warmth and finesse – expect wines to be decanted at the table and a smile with every explanation of the dishes you have ordered. When I was there on a Saturday evening, live music was wafting through from the bar, where a band was playing a piano version of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. It felt relaxed yet refined. THE FOOD Modern more than rustic, Mazzei’s approach to cooking is to create simple, tasty, beautiful food, inspired by the cuisine of Calabria, Puglia, Sardinia and Sicily, and he does this brilliantly. Every dish is presented on big white china plates, and though the food is carefully put together with an artistic eye, the portions are generous, the flavours moreish and the colours bold. Almost without exception, dishes have both style and substance. Starters include the likes of octopus à la plancha with cannellini beans, ricotta mustia and paprika oil (£16.75), and charcoal scallops with n’duja (spicy soft salame from Spilinga, Calabria) and baccala (salted and air-dried cod) for £17.25. My companion opted for the Burrata d’Andria with richly smoked aubergine, offset with crunchy toasted hazelnuts and red onion jam (£12), while I chose the delicate summer salad with quails eggs, lentil hummus, slender slices of asparagus, carrot, white radish and black truffle shavings (£14.75). The waiter also recommended the wonderful Italian peasant dish of papa al pomodoro, made with bread soaked in olive oil and mashed up with ripe tomatoes to create an unctuous, smooth pâte topped with micro herbs and creamy Burrata d’Andria mozzarella. (This is found on the prezzo fisso menu available Friday and Saturday evening – two courses £29.50; three courses £35). If you have a good appetite, move on to one of the pasta or risotto dishes, which range from linguine with hand-picked crab, chilli and Amalfi lemon (£14 or £19 as a main), to Acquerello risotto “al nero” with cuttlefish (£18), before then having a main. Favourites include rabbit Siciliana (£24), fish stew with Sardinian fregola (£26), and wild sea bass with potato crisp and red onion puree (£32). Wanting to leave room for dessert, my friend chose the wild mushroom fettucine as a main (£22), which had a delicate earthy aroma as the warmth of the pasta (cooked to perfection) released the smell of the black truffle shavings scattered on top. I ordered the aubergine parmigiana (£15). Done well, this is one of my favourite dishes, but sadly it did not live up to my hopes. Instead of being cooked much like a lasagna – layered and baked to create a soft, juicy dish melded together with sumptuous tomatoes and melting Parmesan cheese – it was presented in a deconstructed fashion whereby each slice of aubergine was topped with sauce and cheese and arranged on a plate. The texture, consequently, suffered being a little rubbery in places. The wine, however, was very enjoyable and complemented the food nicely. Going on a recommendation from the sommelier, we went for the Rosso di Montalcino, Mastro Janni, 2010 (£55). He decanted it with a flourish, and then placed the bottle, with the cork, on the table next to us. It was ruby red, round and full of ripe plum. I finished the meal with a single scoop of pink raspberry sorbet, edged with perfect green pistachios. THE BAR In keeping with one of the greatest of all Italian traditions, L’Anima hosts aperitivo hour, whereby diners can enjoy an pre-dinner drink (the Aperol spritz, made with Aperol, prosecco, a splash of soda and decorated with a pansy, is highly recommended), with bite-size portions of bruschetta, pizza, pasta and fritto misto. Take a seat at one of the high stools or on the white leather banquettes for a bottle of wine, a light meal or a cocktail. VERDICT A superior fine-dining Italian restaurant serving hearty, flavourful food with warm, professional service. It’s City location makes it great for business people and can also be hired for private events. COOKING CLASSES After a typical Italian breakfast, participants will learn how to make a four-course meal, take part in a wine-tasting with the head sommelier and then end with a meal in the restaurant itself. Food and Wine of Sicily Saturday September 21 The Art of Aperitivo Saturday October 19 White Truffle Saturday November 23 OPENING HOURS Monday-Friday 11.45pm-3pm, 5.30pm-11pm; Saturday 5.30pm-11.30pm. Bar Monday-Friday 9am-1am, Saturday 5.30pm-1am. Note that the restaurant will be closed until August 27 and will also be shut August 31. CONTACT L’Anima, 1 Snowden Street, the City, London; tel +44 (0)20 7422 7000; lanima.co.uk Jenny Southan
Loading comments...
Business Traveller July / August 2019 edition
Business Traveller July / August 2019 edition
Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription
To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below
Polls