Near the grand City-fringe Italian of the same name, a large contemporary-style café-pizzeria-trattoria; some of the food is of very high quality, and some of the prices are very reasonable too – both fronts, though, offer some scope for greater consistency.
How quickly we forget. When L’Anima opened back in 2008, it seemed remarkable that someone had opened an opulent but understated ‘Manhattan-style’ Italian – an Armani-esque dining room which took up much of the ground floor of a smart office building, just north of Liverpool Street. Nowadays, when some vast new it-could-be-Gotham dining spot throws open its doors, no one really bats an eyelid.
Half a dozen years on, no one can accuse the L’Anima team of rushing their next venture, which occupies a different part of the same building. They’ve named it a café, but you could equally well have called it a trattoria-pizzeria. Perhaps they thought that sounds a bit ’70s? The look of this airy and impressive space is certainly bang up-to-date, if arguably a little on the cold side, lacking as it does the opulence which tends to soften the feel of the parent dining room.
Prices, however, generally seem pretty reasonable for the City fringes – half a litre of the very drinkable house white, for example, will set you back just £11 – around the same price as a pizza. For the more informal sort of client rendezvous, or for a purely social gathering, this looks set to become something of a default destination.
The food varies from excellent to, at least in these early days, merely good enough. We doubt better bread – served from a spectacularly loaded trolley – is to be had anywhere in town.
Dolce, of which chef Francesco Mazzei is something of a maestro, are well worth leaving space for too. The rum babá (the manager’s suggestion) arguably outscored the torta di Mascarpone, even though the latter’s garnish of dark fruits was undoubtedly generous.
Mazzei is also usually something of a master of pasta too, so we ordered both a baked ‘frutti de mare’ and ‘paccheri’ (big tubes) with lamb. Both were surprisingly timid. The same could not, however, be said for the price of a strong but (not especially hot) espresso, which – at £3.80 – seemed oddly out-of-line.