Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pubbing in London: Fox & Anchor, Clerkenwell

Everytime I am in London I try to check out another pub I haven't been to. On this trip, my friend MC and I stopped in at Cadogan Arms in Chelsea for some damn good bloody mary. But we didn't get a chance to eat so there isn't anything for me to report besides: I will be back.

Instead, for my pub crawl this trip, we headed east to Fox and Anchor in Clerkenwell on another night to check out how EC1 stacks up to SW1. Described as a gastropub (what ISN'T called that nowadays?) Fox and Anchor also has 6 rooms upstairs with modern, comfortable furnishings, full baths, luxury toiletries. I liked the spot immediately when we walked in: dark mahogany wood all around the bar, wooden floors, good looking guys (ha). A hallway in the back of the bar leads to a back room with comfortable though smaller tables in nooks and crannies and even more back rooms that are good for groups of friends to settle into (one had a door and was called Fox Lair).

The drinks menu offers a variety of beers and cask ales, mixed drinks and liquor and a pretty long wine list that's categorized according to cheeky personality descriptions. For example, bubblies are "For Rappers, Starlets and Elegants" and fuller bodied reds are "For Bishops, Vixens and Rolling Stones". Our drinks of choice: a lager and a cask ale, with some bread and butter. The cask ale was authentically British, which meant in this case, warm. Ick. One point for SW1. The butter was unlike any butter I've had before...so rich and creamy and flavorful but not too salty. Who knew I would swoon over butter? One point for EC1.

The food menu is an elegant list of British staples: oysters, meat pies and main courses such as roasts and fish cheeks. We started with prawns thinking it would be shrimp cocktail but it was actually shell-on shrimp that were flavorless and TINY (though extremely fresh). So far, EC 1 is not doing great, though some points for "rustic" presentation below.

Our main courses save the day for EC1 and Fox and Anchor. The fish and chips (cod in beer batter) with pushy peas and chips were expertly fried and the portion just right.

The braised beef pie with ale and mushrooms was another winner. The pastry crust buttery, the beef stew highly flavorful and the big surpise was a bone marrow "chimney" sticking out of the pie. My only complaint was the beef was a tad tough but the flavors were all there.

Final course: MC's favorite sticky toffee pudding. Warm and gooey, not too sweet but hit the spot. After a meal like this, I almost wished the weather were a lot cooler...we ate enough to hibernate through the winter!

Final verdict: this one's a keeper. Good food, good service, fun, young crowd, great atmosphere. SW1 needs to step up if it's gonna beat Fox & Anchor as my favorite pub in London so far!

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