17/20. Cute, acute, pared down, laid back ; light on the menu poetry; long on consummate, beautifully crafted food.
St Cross Street: runs Leather Lane, Clerkenwell; an area of youth and blessed memory; Ye Olde Mitre in Early Court; that caff/canteen (sadly the name escapes me) run by an ex-Army catering officer that served perfect roast pork, beef, lamb, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, cabbage); the booth where I got my watches mended; Gazzano’s and Terroni, Italian delis redolent of family and pastas and Parmesan and prosciutto; Grey’s Inn Fields; Carey Street (never far away); The Eagle, where the gastro-pub revolution began; walks and talks; y ears, decades passed at various numbers in Farringdon Road, for better or worse.
And now Anglo, the cool antithesis of the old-fashioned bustle of the market traders, with its cool grey and glass exterior; its name in cool tubular lighting,; cool white walls above cool grey below and cool wooden tables without uncool table clothes, with a cool beer list and a cool way with dish descriptions – potato with egg + watercress + smoked rapeseed oil; prawn with green tomato + lemongrass; Loch Duart salmon with wild garlic + buttermilk; beef cheeks with cauliflower + parsley; chocolate with cranberry + rhubarb. Reticent to the point of cryptic.
However, the food itself is anything but reticent or cryptic. Oh yes, it has ingredients of the moment (eg yeasted butter, buttermilk and cauliflower – who would’ve predicted that cauliflower would become the most fashionable and ubiquitous vegetable of the hour?) and the plating has a certain spare artifice, but the impact, the careful layering and elision of flavours and textures, the awareness of how a dish works best to seduce the eater, is sophisticated and forceful.
Let’s take one dish, potato + watercress + smoked rapeseed oil. What these sparse words don’t tell you is that the potato is a puddle of mousseline by any other name, light, smooth, silken, buttery, framed by a thin stream of brilliant green watercress essence. In the middle sits an egg yolk. Break it, and the sunflower yellow yolk flows out, adding its own creamy viscosity to the potato business. The sharp, peppery note of watercress and the smokey rapeseed oil help define the subtle, soothing nature of the potato and egg. When I come to think about it, that is as sophisticated and satisfying a mouthful as I’ve enjoyed recently.
Even the beef cheek, which in most hands is a gastronomic cudgel, the mighty meatiness of which is enforced by heavy-duty sauce, at Anglo becomes an elegant elegy, the cheek soft and fibrous and lightly infused with spices, with a limpid consommé in place of the gooey reduction, and a heap of neatly diced root vegetables. Chocolate with cranberry + rhubarb was a masterly exercise in contrasts, of seductive soft chocolate mousse and slightly bitter crisp chocolate disk and nuggets of sharp rhubarb and – well, I could go on, but I hope that’s enough to set a spark of interest with boring the pants off you.
The chef/prop of Anglo is Mark Jarvis, who has spent time with Raymond Blanc at Le Manor aux Quat’ Saisons (along side Agnar Sverrisson, Robin Gill and Ollie Dabbous) and Jeremy Lee at the Blueprint Cafe. These are chefs who instil principles into other chefs without flattening their individuality and character. And that’s what comes across with these dishes. Mr Jarvis has a rare awareness of the possibilities of certain ingredients, and the creativity and impeccable technique needed to explore them.
By the time I finished, I was flushed with pleasure rather than cool and dispassionate. But that’s as it should be. Another cheery Clerkenwell memory.
I did not pay for lunch, but the menu says that it’s £16 for 1 course, £22.50 for 2, £27.5 for 3 and £42 for the full tasting menu, with £35 or £47 for the wine pairings.