Summary: Highly Recommended / Couples, Business, Special Occasions
How on earth did I not know about this place until I was one week away from taking a (brief?) hiatus from London? I leave to head back to Chicago next month and thought I had tried enough Italian restaurants in London to conclude that Chicago had better ones. Then a friend from the large international insurer with which I was recently associated recommended I try this place, merely minutes from my office on a street of which I had never heard, Snowden.
Thank you Heather!
Walking in to the restaurant, I will admit I was a bit put off. As much as I recognise that I am a “suit”, I try desperately to avoid restaurants full of other suits. And this one almost. Looked as if there was a uniform. Few women, all guys with button down shirts, blue blazers or suit jackets hanging on the back of the chairs. Not kidding. I even found myself taking off my jacket as I sat down to ensure I was conforming. LOL.
1 Snowden Street
London, EC2A 2DQ
From the entrance to the end, the team here knows service. And I’m not talking “better than typical London” but truly service on par with some of the finer restaurants in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Greeting us were two hostesses who actually smiled as we entered. The quirky sommelier, the attentive, friendly and trendy servers, and the manager were all service oriented and focused on ensuring our experience was exceptional.
Bottom line: The servers were nice and not snobs that make me want to be mean while I should be enjoying my meal. Smiling means a lot and they actually smiled as they helped us.
Exquisite food with fantastic displays, if just a tad spicy for me. (Apparently the norm for the region in Italy that is the focus of the restaurant). I started with charcoal scallops with an uber spicy crust and salted cod on the side. Well prepared and presented on a clam shell, taste and appearance were impressive (but hot). Second course was quid ink cavatelli. YUM!!!!!!! Fantastic and unique, the tiny bean shaped black pasta with the slightly crispy peas and succulent mussels was amazing. My partner had a spring salad followed by Linguine with crab for his second course. I barely got to see what was on his plate before it was completely devoured.
My main was a perfectly prepared sea bass that was not too salty as is often the case. It was perfectly seasoned and also the perfect size. With a side of spinach to share between us, and my partner’s Rabbit Siciliana, we were well and truly stuffed by the end of the dinner. Expecting the CS to start gently suggesting we wrap it up as by now it had been two hours, I tried to psyche myself up to dessert. But the team seemed to know just how long to let us sit and digest. Perfect! They kept our wine and water glasses full and just when I felt ready to tackle dessert, the menus arrived. I had the raspberry soufflé with a moscato and my partner had pistachio ice cream with an Espresso Martini. Talk about a sugar rush! Heavenly!
Over all, the food was superb, the sizes good, and the wine pairing suggestion (Nero Di Lupo) was excellent.
I liked the fact that the bar is separate, so if anyone wanted to come for a drink they could enjoy cocktails without standing over diners as is the case in so many London restaurants. The dining area was pristine white and quite minimalist, almost uncanny given the mostly business clientele. I expected to see actors and fashionistas sitting in the low white leather chairs. I noted with a chuckle the intensity of the sommelier as he went table to table ensuring there were no wrinkles.
Music was low (enough that we could hear the singer in the bar area just a tad. Amazing vocal chords on that one…) and whilst fairly loud, you were able to have a conversation with those at your table without also participating in the table over’s discussion. Finally, the bathroom was fabulous. Stylish without the gimmicks of soft porn, transparent doors, or the like so many places are now trying to do.
Oh yeah: HUGE kitchen and well designed so you can see it without it being “in your face” or, worse, smokey!
I would say this place is certainly not your everyday meal spot. Our bill came to about £240 including four courses, a small side, a reasonably priced bottle of wine, two cocktails, water, coffee, and “optional” but well-earned 12.5% service. Pastas and risottos were quite reasonable, with small or large portion options. Mains ranged from £20-£40 if I recall and nothing seemed ridiculously out of line. I would suggest, however, that a Tasting Menu would have been nice. £75 per person or £100 including wine would have resulted in a bill pretty darn close to what we paid but somehow tasting menus always make you feel better about the bill!
I rate this restaurant against higher end restaurants but must also consider Italian food options in general. And I will admit that L’Anima is knocked down just a notch because I would not typically expect to pay this much for Italian food. Interestingly, the cost was comparable to rather touristy places I tried in Rome and Florence earlier this month.
I am giving L’Anima my first 5 star for an Italian restaurant and thus also naming it my best Italian restaurant in London or Chicago. I highly recommend it for couples, business diners, and special occasions but not for children or the budget conscious. While great for food and exceptionally high standard of service, and a nice environment in which to dine, it is still too expensive for an everyday meal or even a splurge meal for many.
In relationship with #foodies,
Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections
For more reviews, go to my yelp profile here or find me on TripAdvisor with username ALSWharton.