Do you Google the menu before going to a new restaurant or do you like a surprise? I’m the former, particularly when eating in a group as it can be difficult to chat and choose.
The daily changing menu at The Anchor and Hope, a gastro pub on The Cut (London’s Southbank), didn’t entice me. It’s also one of those irritating places which doesn’t take advance reservations and you have to turn up early and get your name on the board (bookings open at 5.30pm with the restaurant opening at 6pm).
Eight of us sat down in what is a quirky room next to the bar with mismatched wooden chairs and tables. This was never going to be a cheap night and so one person sensibly suggested sharing a couple of starters and a number were suggested.
Radishes, butter and salted anchovies (£5) were exactly as described and not ideal for sharing – three long radishes, a pile of tinned, brown anchovies and for some reason a slab of butter: perhaps you were meant to make anchovy butter.
Essex asparagus and a tumbler of melted butter (£7.60) was easier to pass round and dip whilst a plate of simple buttered samphire (£6.60) was fine, but not outstanding. The person who suggested the most expensive dish, crab on toast (£8.80), obviously hadn’t got the sharing idea as he wolfed the whole lot down himself.
Other options discounted were snail and bacon kebab, grilled razor clams and crumbed pig’s head: you can now see why the menu didn’t inspire me.
Out of the eight main courses, I opted for roast Middlewhite loin on a bed of butter beans with a grilled pepper. Again, it was fine, but not exceptional, or large, for £17.00. A dish for three, slow cooked lamb shoulder with a large dish of dauphinoise potatoes looked good. The waitress reeled off a list of specials including pork belly and steak onglet but there was no mention of the price.
One of the mains was chicken on the woods, garlic and parsley on toast. None of us knew what it was but didn’t ask. Interestingly when the paper menus were returned to us to choose dessert, the chicken of the woods had been crossed out and replaced by girolles. We then realised that basically this was mushrooms on toast.
A little lemon pot, cassis and palmier was the tastiest part of my meal, but it was as described: little.
The wine was interesting. We chose the cheapest white option at £17 and were advised to shake it which we didn’t as we thought it strange. At the end of the first bottle we ended up with glasses of cloudy liquid which someone described as looking like a water sample when you have cystitis. My mouthful of what I can only describe as kettle scale was revolting. We fared no better with the second bottle despite it being shaken and found that the bottom two inches were pretty undrinkable. Apparently when unfiltered, the wine is said to have more flavour and aroma.
Our bill divided up was £50 a head: not a cheap experience and not one I’m keen to repeat, particularly when there are a number of other restaurants on The Cut. However I seem to be in the minority as the place was packed (and noisy).