5 reasons to visit L’Anima Cafe, London

An edited version of this post originally appeared on About Time magazine here.

Italian chef Francesco Mazzei of Liverpool Street’s fantastic restaurant L’Anima, has just opened a younger, cooler sibling mere paces from the flagship original.

No stranger to casual dining (he’s appeared on BBC Saturday Kitchen, and his Calabrese pizza appears on the Pizza Express menu), Mazzei now wants to offer his familiar Calabrian dishes in a more chilled setting.

After a quiet soft launch, L’Anima Cafe is now officially open. Here’re five reasons why we think it’s about time you went:

1. The food

Some London restaurants seem all about the hype, less about the food. Not here. This is the gooey, crunchy, fragrant and foodie equivalent of a lazy morning, with nothing and no-one to answer to.

Think aubergine in tomato sauce with mozzarella and a wood-fired sheet of bread; lamb with al-dente pasta rings and an intensely-spicy smudge of n’duja; flash-fried squid with baby tentacles, plus tangy tomato, basil and olive oil.LanimaCafe064

A mosaic-tiled wood-fired oven near the bar means it would be practically illegal to come here and not try a pizza: mine came piled high with whole smoked garlic cloves, mozzarella, and Calabrian ham, all draped languorously over a crispy-chewy base…Dessert was just as good: Our dollop of tiramisu came with lightly-whipped mascarpone on a boozy biscuit layer, sprinkled with cocoa. Heaven.

2. The service

For evidence that L’Anima Café is related to L’Anima, look no further than the flawless service. Smartly-dressed bar staff were friendly and accommodating, the manager was enthusiastic (if perhaps, just a tad too much). We didn’t wait too long and everyone was helpful. Overall, the impression was simply of someone wanting – and managing ‒ to do a good job. You can’t argue with that.

3. The price

It’s not exactly budget, but the value for money here is surprising. Large antipasti start from around £6 per plate, while mains start at £9-10 (compared to L’Anima, where starters begin at £9.50).

If you were after a light dinner, you could get away with spending little over £20 for a good meal including a glass of wine, which is actually pretty damn good for a restaurant with one foot firmly in the City.

4. The atmosphere
It’s no cute bohemian joint, but who could expect that after the monochromatic lines of Mazzei’s other place?

Instead, this site somehow manages to deliver a relaxed atmosphere without totally forgetting the crisp, upmarket setting of its big sister.

A wide bar area encourages pre-dinner drinks, cool lighting throws shapes around the walls, and there’s no white tablecloth in sight. It even has a delicatessen in the back, should you ever get a daytime craving for the best ham Italy can offer.

The entrance even has a “market stall” display of bread and glossy vegetables, which screams “hot sunshine” and “Italy” no matter the weather outside. *Happy face*.

5. The Vespa!
Just as you were getting a bit depressed at the thought of leaving, fear not – there is an actual Vespa in the entrance area. Yes, really.

LanimaCafeInterior120

If you’re really lucky, (or one too many cocktails down) the waiter might indulge your jokes threats to take a seat on said bike, letting you imagine a trip through groves to the nearest sun-soaked Calabrian town to your heart’s content.

And yet, even if your visit doesn’t involve a motorbike ride, you won’t be disappointed.

I wandered back to Liverpool Street imbued with deep satisfaction, a faint whiff of smoked garlic and tiramisu, and the sense that L’Anima Café is somehow that rare London thing: a great meal in a friendly place, for not too much.

L’Anima Cafe, 10 Appold Street, London

Nearest tube: Moorgate / Liverpool St / Shoreditch High Street

An edited version of this post originally appeared on About Time magazine here.

Advertisements

TV review: BBC 2’s The Little Paris Kitchen, or why I love Rachel Khoo

Upon arriving home from a month away, I come across a fabulous new BBC 2 food programme that reminds me of my love of France ‒ and which, unbelievably, proves that there is most definitely still room on TV for yet another cooking show

Rachel Khoo

Rachel Khoo, my new TV food-crush (even if it is a month after everyone else)

I’ve been out of the country for the past month (briefly volunteering at small but interesting projects in Himachal Pradesh and Goa) and frankly, it makes me cringe to think that among some of the reasons I was apprehensive about going away for four weeks – including, for example, people realising they could do my job without me, what would happen to my waistline, whether I’d be able to carry everything I’d need for a month on my back ‒ was that I’d miss out on BBC iPlayer (I know, shoot me).

I hardly ever watch live TV, but I’ll regularly peruse the glorious iPlayer and open in endless tabs the frequently interesting, entertaining and fabulously on-demand programmes I find that I haven’t yet had a chance to watch.

Doing just that upon my return home, I discovered a new programme I hadn’t heard of before – BBC 2’s ‘The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo’. As in love with cooking programmes as I am (my watching of Saturday Kitchen of a morning is akin to a religious ritual, and I will be hoofed out of bed only for the most paramount of familial or national occasions, sighing with a resigned acceptance that I’ll just have to catch James Martin’s yummy offerings later on) I was sceptical of this one, fronted as it was on the BBC site by a young girl laughing into food mid-frame, eerily reminiscent of those hilarious but depressing ‘Women Laughing Alone With Salad/Fruit’ stock photos that regularly do the Internet rounds. Sigh.

Also, another programme on luxurious, indulgent but oh-so-easy cooking presented by a young, pretty woman? If Nigella hadn’t already cornered that market a while back (albeit, slightly more saucily than entirely necessary), who could forget Sophie Dahl’s well-meaning and sweet but essentially lacklustre attempts at comfort food, or Lorraine Pascale’s enjoyable but nonetheless slightly sickening missives of trying to convince all us mortals that she does really eat loads of cake and cheese and bread, honest (hey, maybe she genuinely does, in which case, I’m still annoyed!)*? Could this new programme really be offering anything different?

Well, it turns out, yes.

Continue reading