Now associated with the nearby Malmaison Hotel, this smartly revamped pub, near Smithfield Market, offers a good line in solid food (and drink); with its notably friendly service, it seems quickly to be attracting an enthusiastic local following.
he Fox & Anchor – in a charming enclave by Charterhouse Square – has always been a fine pub. In a rather unusual move, however, it’s recently been taken over by interests associated with a local hotel (the Malmaison). The place now glows, money having apparently been lavished on its refurbishment in a way more in keeping with the way hotel chains (but not pub companies) often tend to. The effect is slightly ‘heritage’ – think boozer acquired by the National Trust – but undoubtedly smart, comfortable and in good taste.
In a good way, the rest of the package is broadly in keeping with the appearances. Staff are friendly and helpful and, at least in the first week of business, notably enthusiastic. The wine – or, more correctly, drinks – list is elegantly presented, quite wide-ranging and mostly reasonably priced. It includes a wide range of beers both bottled and on draught. (We especially enjoyed the interchange at a neighbouring table, when – in response to an eloquent and enthusiastic round up by the waiter of the splendid real ales on offer – the punter replied: “Er, I think just a pint of Pride please”. The waiter, to his credit, did not seem downcast.)
On the food front you can argue whether this is a gastropub or not. Our friend Charles Campion, in his blog, defines this as a pub which does food, rather than a gastropub, and – to the extent anyone can actually be said to ‘win’ a totally semantic argument – he’s probably right. It’s a mark of how far pub food in London has come in recent years, though, that you can feel confident enough to strip the gastro-prefix from a place whose standard menu includes oysters, home-made pâtes and nicely pink roast beef (from the fashionable Ginger Pig butcher). Dishes we sampled included a very solid ham hock with mash and parsley sauce, which was almost too satisfying. The specials of the day – recited to that neighbouring table, but not to us – included some more obviously gastro-dishes of the only-for-the-brave variety popularised by not-so-distant St John. Puddings – if anyone could ever get that far – are in the great stodge tradition.
The formula certainly seemed to be working during our first-week visit – although there had not been much apparent pre-publicity, the place was already very busy.