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The Anthologist (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of The Anthologist in City of London, London

58 Gresham Street, City of London, London, EC2V 7BB
Cuisine: British
Tel: Not on file | Email to The Anthologist | Transport: Bank | Write review

The Anthologist Review

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Best for: A break from the City norm with a European twist.

Great: Cocktail selection and eye-catching specials.

Despite living in London for years now, I still find any mention of “The City” a little bit more daunting than I should. I mean, it might once have been held up as the centre of money-making prowess and the engine of the UK economy but it now seems to get all the stick for being the greedy and incompetent cause of our slide into irreversible economic decline. So shouldn’t I be the one feeling smug or, perhaps more charitably, sympathetic? But yet I don’t, you see. The reason? The City still LOOKS unbelievably slick: full of clean lines, sharp suits and uber-professional types which all add up to something a little bit intimidating. They might be pinching the pennies just like the rest of us but they’re much better at hiding it.

And yet about the last thing I felt upon crossing the threshold of The Anthologist, with its none-too-shabby City location, was intimidated. Yes, it had a vibe but it wasn’t like something ripped out of the pages of a glossy magazine; this place felt different in the best possible way. I liked the way that it’s laid out in themed areas, with a dedicated deli space for customers passing through in the daytime, to a range of choices for customers later in the day: sofas and ‘chill out’ space on one side; a chunky and beer tap-tastic bar in the middle; and convivially-grouped tables on the other. They even managed to squeeze in an art gallery downstairs (I’ve heard of shared spaces but that is another level!)

The menu came on four different bits of paper so it felt a bit like getting to grips with Ordnance Survey map at first. I quickly calmed upon discovering one was crammed with cocktails (nice work with the sharing punch bowl for four, guys), another with fine wines and a range of wine flights, a third with some encouragingly original specials, and the final one with, er, the food and main wine list and stuff.

Fortunately for my flat-footed self, the principal food and wine menu was the biggest so I zeroed in and quickly kicked off with a couple of sharing plates. It was a tale of two fish dishes: a barnstorming crispy squid, which was effortlessly tender and came with the right amount of bite, rather overshadowed a skillet of prawns which was crowded by too many accompanying greens. The fish specials were also a mixed bag: I loved the freshness of the pan-fried sea trout but the beetroot and potato salad it came with was a little too smothered in crème fraîche. Fortunately, a blue riband grilled swordfish steak rode to the rescue (as only swordfish can). It was cooked to perfection and I thought a bean and chorizo cassoulet was a neat, creative suggestion to put alongside.

As mentioned before, perhaps what helps the Anthologist stand out the most as a modern European restaurant is its laudable originality. The clientele were a mixed bag – couples and singletons, younger and older, smart professionals and casual creative types – and this reflected the feeling that it was a venue with a diverse appeal. All that despite being part of a chain; yet a sensible one which deliberately gives each of its locations a different name and a different character.

So despite my initial trepidation I hit upon a restaurant with all the starry-eyed wonder of a truly global menu that doesn’t conform to the old stereotype about “a place for City types”. What sums up the aforementioned formula? In all my years as a Fluid London reviewer I have never seen Chinese and Indian wine on the same menu. The Chenin Blanc from the Sula Vineyards in India really held its own thanks to some lovely peachy notes. It was also a lovely touch to group the whites and reds by character (youthful, rich, unoaked etc.) because it made the impressive range feel all the more accessible. Perhaps given I was in the part of London which trades in futures from across the globe, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the spread of wines; yet it managed to be daring and unpretentious. The result was feeling totally relaxed in the company I found myself in and forgetting all about what the City is supposed to feel like.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an anthology in one way as a collection of songs or musical compositions. With that and the digital age in mind, I’d certainly add this Anthologist to my playlist.
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