A table full of starters
A table full of starters

In my mind, the Barbican is a concrete citadel, its blank walls occasionally broken by doorways that lead to wine bars offering Mediterranean platters for 2. It’s a place of culture but a desert of cuisine.

I was going to breach this arts castle for a night of hushed, high-faultin’ culture (I went to the cinema and saw a rom com) but what about dinner? I’ve laid a lot of flesh down in anticipation of Winter and I don’t want to burn an ounce of it off surviving a night at a national arts institution.

I put out an appeal on twitter and was swiftly reminded that, although the Barbican is a concrete citadel, it’s also right next to FoodUrchin recommended the Fox and Anchor, a pub with rooms off Charterhouse Street. The menu included fish finger sandwiches. I immediately booked a table for 2.

Bellerina and I arrived there just before 7 and were lead to our table past a pile of pies, an oyster counter and the carving trolley. This was no Wetherspoons. Our table was tucked round the back and gothickly lit with a black candle (hence the grainy images). I was glad to see a bottle of Sarson’s in the box of condiments. I once went to a gastro pub that bought out a small dipping bowl of balsamic when we asked for vinegar for our chips. When pubs get too fancy for malt vinegar, they get too pretentious for me.

My first ever oyster
My first ever oyster

We ordered 2 Maldon oysters to start. I’ve never had oysters before. What can I say? I grew up by the sea and know that the briny is a place to urinate on hot summer days and therefore, you should treat anything that comes out of it with suspicion. Bellerina took me through the rigmarole of loosening it, squeezing over the lemon and applied reassurance as necessary. Reader, I ate that oyster and it was a mouthful of fresh sea air and salt water. I loved it.

Moving on from that vibrant slap in the tastebuds, we ordered a mix of starters and sides to share. A board of decent bread arrived with a pat of Netherend Farm unsalted butter and a bowl of salt. The sweet butter had enough of a salt tang to satisfy Bellerina, but I like to risk my heart and kidneys and scattered on the salty crunch.

Our table swiftly filled up with smoked trout pâté and beetroots, a scotch egg with curried mayonnaise, a mushroom, spinach and cheese tart, goose fat chips and chicken livers and mushrooms on toast.

A man walked past our table. He stopped. He stared. “That is SO MUCH food!” He goggled some more. “And it’s only Wednesday!” Within minutes we’d converted him to our decadent ways and I later saw a march of starters making its way towards his table, but it’s nice to know you can still shock the locals in central .

Scotch egg with curry mayo
Scotch egg with curry mayo

The highlight of the meal was the chicken livers and mushrooms on toast. The livers were cooked pink and were soft, tender, melting mouthfuls of organ meat that Bellerina and I went fork to fork over. Goose fat chips were crunchy and fluffy and thicker than two of my fingers pressed together. They let out a puff of steam when I bit into them and, fortunately, the very good scotch egg came with so much mayo that there was plenty left for dipping, although Bellerina gave the HP a good thumping too.

I was intimidated by the enormous slab of the spinach and mushroom tart (how big can the main meal version be?), but it was a soufflé in a pastry case. I scarfed my half with barely a tightening sensation in my waistband. Lastly the trout pâté was ordinary but the beetroots that came with it were extraordinary. Intensely earthy, they were the turf to the surf of my oysters.

Service was charming and the bill, including service and two lime and sodas (reports of our decadence may be overstated) was £38. I cannot think of a better meal I’ve had in a pub in a long time, even if it is a pub where you can book the tables. Bring on Winter. I want to sit in the snug and eat pie and drink ale.

Fox & Anchor on Urbanspoon

Tagged with: LondonPub ReviewsSmithfield

0 Responses to Fox and Anchor, Smithfield

  1. Nora says:

    Oooh, marvellous – that’s not for from my parent’s abode! Great to have a recommendation for when I’m in the big smoke – and that place sounds fab.

  2. Chris says:

    I went a few months back and didn’t enjoy it at all! I can’t even remember what I ordered but it was a bank holiday and perhaps the kitchen wasn’t operating at 100%. I ordered a brandy and it came all fancy presented over a bowl of hot water and stuffed with a napkin. That was quite good.

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Ah, so clearly we should be visiting restaurants several times to check they are always on form. I may be up to that task.

      I thought the food was good. Not fussy and remarkably, not heavy, given that it was British food. Then again, I didn’t attempt a pie. And you’ve gotta love somewhere that does a special presentation for brandy.

  3. Bellerina says:

    I am truly honoured to have been present at the taking of your oyster virginity.
    As to the food, I can only concur. And add that, as a great hot sauce admirer, I was delighted to note that the F&A also had three types of tabasco/chili sauce in the condiments caddy.

  4. Helen says:

    Once you go down the oyster road there is no way back….

  5. Kake says:

    They have pewter tankards for the ale, too. They even have half-pint ones, which are the cutest things I’ve ever seen in a pub.

  6. Dylan says:

    That Scotch Egg looks amazing.

    Next time in London I’ll be heading here I think.

  7. Dylan says:

    I’m a fairly new convert to oysters myself, too.

    I’m lucky enough to live across the road from the Edinburgh branch of the Loch Fyne restaurant chain. It sits on a pier next to a little old fishing harbour on the Northern coast of city, on the Firth of Forth, and to sit there with a beer on a sunny afternoon is bliss.

    Anyway, back to the point, that place has got me in the habit of ordering a couple of oysters to start the meal, and a very rewarding habit it has turned out to be!

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      OK, that sounds like a slightly better location for eating oysters than the Fox and Anchor, nice as it is. When my oyster habit takes off, I will put it on my list of places to hit.

  8. […] Fox and Anchor, Smithfield « Gin and Crumpets […]

  9. […] Last year I put out an appeal on twitter for somewhere to eat near the Barbican. Food Urchin recommended the Fox and Anchor and as Bellerina and I like a pub, we settled in for a dinner of oysters, scotch egg and goose fat chips before immersing ourselves in the refinement of the Barbican’s cinema (you can read the review here). […]

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