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Anchor and Hope
36 The Cut, London SE1 Tel: 020 7928 9898
Lunch Tues-Sat Dinner Mon-Sat
Is it too late to reject the term gastropub? It makes me feel as if I'll pick up some ghastly stomach bug. If we need to codify, then it should be the bistro pub, for surely the gastropub is the British equivalent of the French bistro: a neighbourly feeding house.
The bistro pub is a beacon shining in a desert of over-priced, under-loved food, and the Anchor and Hope is the best example I have seen so far.
It is no Wanker and Grope for stressed-out City boys and girls, but a relaxed, generous and big-flavoured dining room for lovers of real food. The Anchor and Hope is the by-blow of two of the most important influences on British dining in the past ten years: the uncompromisingly minimalist St.John, and the ground-breaking London gastropub, The Eagle.
Co-chef Jonathan Jones and bar manager Rob Shaw hail from St. John while co-chef Harry Lester cooked at The Eagle as well as its sister pub, The Fox, both of which are owned by fourth partner Mike Belben.
So what does all this mean? It means you get a pub that looks, feels and acts like a pub. You get bare floorboards, and wooden furniture that looks as if it were mugged on the way to school, plain Jane light fittings and a real bar where bartenders pull pints of Bombadier and Red Stripe.
You get a kitchen the size of a postage stamp and an open servery lined with a batallion of beaten-up Le Creuset casseroles. You get chalk boards of wine specials, and a daily changing menu that acts as a sirens' song to people who like real food.
Because you also get salted finnan haddock with poached egg and mash; warm snail and bacon salad; braised hare with semolina gnocchi; and rib of beef with chips and bearnaise. Four people can order cassoulet; eight people can order a haunch of venison.
The menu is just a list of great produce. Nothing is out-of-season or out-of-order, and everything tastes of what it is. It's not going to suit everyone, however. You can't book, you have to turn up early for lunch or dinner; you may have to share a table; it's as noisy and as smoky as any pub; and most wines are served in glass tumblers, which both my wine and I dislike equally.
It combines the best of both St John and The Eagle, with the non-interventionist cooking of one and the cosy warmth of the other, without being so unpretentious that it is almost pretentious.
The Anchor and Hope shows what the genre of bistro pubbery can, and should, be, with its naked cooking, no-nonsense service, and un-greedy prices.
Baltic, 74 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 Tel: 020 7928 1111
Lunch daily noon-3pm; Dinner daily 6 - 11pm
If you're on the river near the Tate Modern, then try The Baltic, for good food with a Polish bent, a fun vodka bar and very likeable staff.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
44 Northcote Road, Battersea, London SW11 Tel:020 7228 3309 (no bookings)
Sitting open-faced on a street of serial bars and cafes, GBK is a fresh little joint that does a great line in burgers As The Should Be, But Never Are. Antipodean owners help explain the New Zilland uck-cent and Neil Finn singing in the background. 21 burgers, 5 sauces, some beer and wine and a great Breakfast burger - sausage, egg, streaky bacon, salad and relish is a thing of beauty, a full fry-up gone vertical, with egg white draped down its side like a satin slip. Cheap, cheerful and good.
For updates, check out Terry Durack's restaurant column in the Review magazine in the Independent on Sunday every Sunday.