Gastropubs can be rather hit and miss; there are some fine examples around but there are an equal number of establishments that seem to believe that by acquiring some chunky white china and stocking up on the Balsamic they can hike up the prices for mediocre fare.
The Anchor and Hope definitely belongs in the former category. Just up the road from the Old Vic, it has been the recipient of considerable critical admiration and demonstrates exactly how these things should be done.
Visiting on a Wednesday lunchtime the place was buzzing. The dining room, simply decorated with burgundy walls and random abstract art, consists of a number of six-seater tables that you invariably end up sharing, but as the atmosphere is so warm and agreeable you really don’t mind this occasionally cramped arrangement.
The ever-changing menu was full of seasonal produce and temptingly robust combinations: shoulder of lamb with peas and mint, green tomatoes and sorrel. A whole grilled seabass or roast duck were also available for those wanting to share. For the offal aficionados a plate of duck hearts were on offer and an off-menu option of grouse was suggested to the businessmen dining beside us.
Our lunches more than lived up to expectations. Gently flaking cod was served with red pepper stuffed with a moreish brandade. A dish of rabbit, bacon and swede was extremely welcome on a chilly October morning, the meat wonderfully tender, the various flavours in perfect harmony. Side dishes were simply presented and generously portioned. The bread provided was thickly cut and crusty, perfect for the greedy mopping-up this kind of food demands.
A short but comprehensive wine list boasted a number of reasonably priced bottles and a good selection by the glass (endearingly served in continental-style tumblers.)
We were both too full for desert but what floated by our table looked pretty good and the murmurs of appreciation from those with larger appetites than us seemed to confirm this.
Prices are perfectly acceptable for what’s on offer; no dish was over £15 and there were a number of interesting items on the menu below the £10 mark. The kitchen excels at producing well-sourced, earthy modern European cuisine, and the quality of the cooking more than matches the quality of the ingredients.
If I have to find fault it’s that the menu is stubbornly meat-centric; vegetarians are limited to just a couple of options. This is only a minor quibble and doesn’t alter the fact that The Anchor and Hope undoubtedly deserves its reputation as one of the best gastropubs in the capital.