Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lunchtime pastime: Anchor & Hope

Yesterday, with good intentions of new weekly blog post in hand, a friend and I went to the Anchor & Hope in Waterloo for a sneaky long lunch before she jets off on an envy-inducing 6 month travel stint. Boasting a heritage from restaurants such as St John and London’s original gastropub The Eagle, this had to be a failsafe location for a nice spot of lunch in comfortable surroundings. Or so you would think.

The pub was pleasantly empty in comparison to its evening shift, when it’s packed to the rafters. Assuming we could take our pick of the tables I started heading to a pleasant spot by the window before being hustled into a corner by the rather pushy waiter. There are few things I like less than being sat back to back with a stranger close enough for our chair legs to strike up an ongoing flirtation, especially when most of the tables around us are empty.

Despite this, our stomachs were rumbling as we perused the daily-changing menu. Dishes such as warm snail and bacon salad, braised ox cheek and chips vied with traditional favourites such as minestrone, mussels ‘mariniere’ and potted shrimps for our attention.

In the end, the mussels won out but when I asked if I could have them as a main instead of a starter our waiter’s answer was short and to the point. ‘No’. No explanation, no apology, just no and a suggestion that I have it with another starter for a more filling lunch. So I plumped for potted shrimps, while Rachel went for the snail and bacon salad.

The first dishes arrived quickly – the snail and bacon salad was surprisingly large and apparently very tasty.

The potted shrimp was nothing to write home about. The portion of shrimp was quite large but let down by the fact that it was under-seasoned and served with a paltry half slice of toast that wasn’t up to the job of holding all the shrimp at all.

Before we’d eaten ½ the dishes in front of us, our bowls of mussels materialised and had to be pushed to the side until we finished. By the time we got round to eating them, they’d cooled down a bit but, to give credit were perfect; the plump molluscs swimming in their delicious sauce.

The plates from our first dishes still hadn’t been cleared by the time we finished our second, and we waited for a good ten minutes before one of the waiters saw fit to clear the array of empty crockery sitting in front of us. Predictably, it was another ten before we were given the bill, five before we paid and so on.

The food at the Anchor & Hope was promising overall, and if it wasn’t for the abysmal service I’d definitely visit again in the evening and try one of the game dishes for which they are famed. However, if a gastropub eschews letting punters choose their own tables and ordering at the till, they have to make sure that they have the rudimentary elements of service in place.

To me, one such rudimentary is more than three waiters for what became quite a busy dining space by the end of our lunch or ensuring said waiters were up to scratch. They weren’t and it let the Anchor & Hope down.

PS Apologies about photos, I forgot to bring the camera so trusty phone had to make do...

Waiting rating: One word. Rubbish
Scoffing potential: Overall, high – quality ingredients and exciting dishes
Wallet buddy: OK
The crowd: Foodies, laid-back lunchers.
36 The Cut
Waterloo, London
Tel: 020 7928 9898


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