Review: The Anchor & Hope, London [Bankside Book]

From the book “Bankside”

The Anchor & Hope
36 The Cut

Tel: 020 7928 9898
Monday to Saturday, lunch and dinner
No bookings

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When celebrity chef and original enfant terrible of the gastro world Marco Pierre White recently handed back his Michelin stars and extolled the virtues of simple food, you knew there must be something going on. And that something appears to be, in London at least, a return to good, wholesome, unpretentious food. Even, dare one say it, a renewed appreciation of traditional English cooking – a concept that the Anchor & Hope, a down-to-earth pub near Waterloo station, embraces to the full.

From the outside, the place is unprepossessing: a no-frills corner pub, painted gun-metal grey, sited under a dreary red-brick council block. Step inside and there are no great revelations: the latest owners took just one month to redesign the interior. Much of this time was spent stripping out existing fittings to create a pared-down, open-plan space with scratched floorboards, a bar and adjoining dining room and a tiny open kitchen. The walls are Roast Beef red and the ceiling is Nicotine Yellow (actually a rather pleasing shade of cream). More shabby than chic.

If it’s just a drink you’re after, the pub has Bombardier and Eagle on tap. There’s a commendably priced wine list that is firmly rooted in the Old World with French varieties in the ascendant. Or you might choose a crisp, dry sherry to whet your appetite, served in a plain ice-frosted tumbler. Ask for a dish of croutons with rabbit rillettes or brandade to accompany your drink.

The menu is deliberately ‘deconstructed’ which means you pick whatever takes your fancy with many dishes lending themselves to being starters or main courses. That said, hearty eaters will relish the selection. Begin perhaps with potato soup and foie gras, smoked herring and lentils, whole crab and mayonnaise, or a plate of winkles. Follow this with smoked Old Pot chop and prunes, or fennel and Berkswell gratin, braised venison and red cabbage or devilled kidneys and potato cake.

The emphasis is on seasonal dishes, the kitchen champions the less commonly used meat cuts, such as mutton and duck’s heart (prepared in a risotto) and many of the raw ingredients are sourced at nearby Borough Market.

The pub has become known for its big, often slow-cooked, dishes, which are delivered to the table in steaming earthenware pots to be shared with friends. There is shoulder of lamb with gratin dauphinois (“for 5-ish” suggests the menu), duck stuffed with faggots with turnips and beans, or pheasant with red cabbage and quince. This is sociable, democratic eating at its best.

Desserts may include panna cotta and rhubarb, lemon tart or chocolate and hazelnut cake with vanilla ice cream.

Like the wine list – a subjective selection for which manager Robert Shaw makes no apologies (“we prefer the subtleties of the traditional wine countries”) – the Anchor & Hope is a very personal venture. Shaw says the owners – himself and the two chefs – wanted to create the sort of place they themselves would want to go to: “Somewhere you could meet your friends and chat over a drink and then, after a while, have supper.”

When it opened, the capital’s chattering classes, and its restaurant critics, flocked to the Anchor & Hope and were fulsome in their praise. Giles Coren in the Times described it as “properly good”. “And,” he added, “of properly good restaurants in London, we have but a handful. Barely a clutch.” In the Sunday Times, A.A. Gill wrote: “The Anchor & Hope looks like a crap pub. It’s a brilliant restaurant. It’s what we’ve been waiting for.”

Such approbation drew the crowds, and for a while the Anchor & Hope was a victim of its own success and there just weren’t enough tables to go around. The pub has settled into a more accommodating rhythm now, however, and – as long as you are comfortable with the idea of a relaxed pre-dinner drink at the bar with a few mouth-watering nibbles – a table will be forthcoming. Tripe and chips anyone?

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