With the midday sunlight filtering through their wall-to-ceiling windows and a glass of crisp, fresh prosecco in hand, I could almost imagine myself transported to Italy
I visited L’Anima during that brief period of Spring weather that now seems so long ago — and with the midday sunlight filtering through their wall-to-ceiling windows and a glass of crisp, fresh prosecco in hand, I could almost imagine myself transported to Italy. This was, of course, despite all the obvious City types nearby, talking shop over the perfect white tablecloths, and a contemporary, minimalist interior that couldn’t be further from the rustic Tuscan stereotype.
We allowed L’Anima’s charming head chef, Francesco Mazzei — who I noticed could often be spotted circulating the room and chatting to regulars — to order for us, and so on his recommendation we started with fritto misto.
I usually avoid fried seafood, having been subjected to too many rubbery and greasy rings of calamari in my time — but thanks to Mazzei’s light touch this dish was truly exceptional. The batter was light, the fish all superbly cooked, whether it was the perfectly soft and tender squid, the sweet soft shell crab or the satisfyingly meaty gurnard. It’s quite something, in this slightly soulless corner of Liverpool Street, to find food prepared with such love.
The dining room at L'Anima
A pasta course followed and was quickly devoured — a plate of fidelini (very thin spaghetto, the menu informed us) and fresh crab, with the comforting warmth of chilli and a generous glug of olive oil. We had fish for our main course too — panfried sea bass resting on a bed of peas and broad beans and vivid chunks of beetroot, a perfect spring lunch.
As we waited for dessert, my companion — none other than Spear’s Emily Rookwood — and I discussed the challenge Mazzei faced. While both of us are hearty eaters, we’re also both exceptionally picky when it comes to sweet foods. We estimated that L’Anima had about a one in ten chance of choosing a dessert that both of us were willing to try — and the chance of both of us enjoying it was even slimmer.
In the end, they pulled off a slight magic trick, or at least defeated chance. The zingy and not over-sweet mango sorbet disappeared in seconds. L’Anima kitchen clearly excels at gelato, because the banana ice cream that followed was similarly well-received — and although the chocolate pudding that accompanied it tasted curiously like a warm Dairy Milk bar, this is a slightly half-hearted criticism. (I like Dairy Milk.)
We both tucked into the limoncello baba with summer fruit, too. Fresh berries and limoncello is a perfect combination — and one I shall recreate at home, even though, or should I say especially because, it ensures that dinner guests leave pleasingly sozzled.
We politely declined Mazzei’s friendly offer to join him for a final limoncello for this very reason, but left concluding that L’Anima — much like its head chef — offers some much-needed warmth and character in corporate London.
1 Snowden Street, EC2A 2DQ