When Anglo first opened in 2016 it was a pain in the butt to get a table, such was the social media adoration for the place. Now that seems to have calmed down, and Anglo is settling in amongst the coffee shops of the Leather Lane community, it’s easier to turn up and get in.
There’s a laid-back, almost pub-like vibe to the place that belies the high aspirations of its food offering: but then again, why should high-end food have to be paired with tablecloths, cushions and other such fluffy accoutrements? We’re not talking full-blown ‘shabby chic’ here – the tables are wooden but at least cared for, the chairs looking like they’re from a 1950s school, and the décor can essentially be described as an ‘anti’ look, intentionally devoid of anything (like John Cage’s 4’33, a music ‘composition’ devoid of sound). In place of background music is just chatter: business types talked about “synergies” and their children’s A levels, whilst on another table a loud family were celebrating a birthday (too audibly). There is just one thing on the wall to punctuate its blank monotony: a blackboard proffering five beers. This means all eyes are on the food itself, and the delivery thereof.
I felt tempted by the beer blackboard, but instead I opted for their house cocktail to test their onsite mixology skills rather than the skills of an offsite brewery. The “Twister”, at £9, mixed Riesling with vodka. It was sharp and cloyingly sweet. I didn’t like it and wished I’d had a beer instead.
Onto the food, they do this other fashionable thing whereby the chef who cooked your dish serves it to you. I’ve had many a debate with my Palate colleagues about this relatively new phenomenon. In a way I like this touch. It’s somehow more human to see the face of the person you wouldn’t ordinarily meet, like meeting the pilot at the end of a flight or a surgeon before you have some part of you taken out. But I have my reservations. Perhaps this new mode of service is designed to save costs by having the kitchen staff multi-task but if they’re going to do this they need the front-of-house skills and training to go with it – and surely, instead of performing cryptic haikus at each diner’s table, they need to be back in the kitchen looking after the next set of checks coming in? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the cook to come out of the kitchen and talk to you after you’ve had the dish, so you can give some real-time feedback rather than rely on the waiter feeding back to the kitchen which may never be communicated at all?
What will always remind me of 2017, I wonder? Probably three things: jeans ripped open at the knees, our malfunctioning democracies and seeing torched mackerel in every modern restaurant
One thing that really does irritate me though, and needs to stop, is having dishes explained to you, which Anglo did more than once. The only purpose for this I can see is if you can’t see. It would help a blind person to know what’s on their plate, for sure (watching out for fish bones, etc). Laconically-worded the menu might be, I know what I ordered and I can fill the gaps myself using my functioning senses: I came here for lunch, not a bedtime story. If you really must explain to me what’s on the plate, please keep it under 5 seconds – do not recite a prose poem.
And as for what’s on the plate, it’s all OK but just a bit, well, predictable. You know how certain sights, sounds and smells evoke memories of particular times in your life? The scent of freshly-mown grass transports me back to exam revision from GCSEs onwards; hearing any track from The Killers’ Hot Fuss reminds me of 2005. What will always remind me of 2017, I wonder? Probably three things: jeans ripped open at the knees, our malfunctioning democracies and seeing torched mackerel in every modern restaurant. (At least the nasturtium leaf trend seems to be slowing down – to be replaced by birch sap).
I’m not sure I understand all the TripAdvisor love for the place. It really is just OK and all a bit samey
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with torched mackerel per se – it’s just that as it’s so commonplace at the moment I hope to see a restaurant serve it differently, to stand out from the crowd. But that wasn’t the case at Anglo. There it was, strutting across the plate, with camomile gels. Hashtag boring. My main course of lamb, which came with a nutty sweetbread, was more successful – with the finely diced anchovy it’s another tried and tested combo but it tasted good and was presented artfully. The lamb could’ve been cooked with more sensitivity though.
Finally, I ordered the jam roly poly, assuming that Anglo has a sense of humour and also assuming, perhaps wrongly, that this school dinner relic would be turned up to 11. But like the mackerel, mundane it remained. No amount of clotted cream could save this dish. The suet had gone dry; the whole thing was stodgy. It just didn’t do justice to childhood memories of this classic dessert. So many restaurants I’ve been to in the last year have dropped the ball when it comes to desserts – the only one I can remember being truly impressed by was Mere. Pastry chefs, time to pull your socks up.
I know I’m being a bit picky – the service, value and ambience are all OK – but I’m not sure I understand all the TripAdvisor love for the place. It really is just OK and all a bit samey. I would go again but not in a hurry – there are other places nearby where I’d sooner part with my money.
30 St Cross Street
by J A Smith