A City fish restaurant that specialises in honest food, clear-headed surroundings and transparent prices? It’ll never catch on!! I thang yew…
I haven’t seen Wolf of Wall Street. I might get round to it, but don’t hold your breath. I’ve read the glowing reviews of Martin Scorsese’s three-hour love letter to Mamon. I’ve absorbed the deeply critical opinion pieces from the scorched relatives of Jordan Belfort’s victims. I’ve watched the drip-fed Youtube clips, spurting excessive behaviour and characterful turns from current flavour of the month talent. It just seems a bit…monotonous. You can add snorting coke off a working girl’s buttocks to the late Christopher Hitchen’s list of ‘Most Overrated things in the World’. (For the record, I only agree with two out of his other three suggestions. Feel free to Google).
But I’ll admit – there is something deeply appealing about that DiCaprio vs McConaughey lunch. ‘It’s a fugaRzzi. A fugaYzi!’ Isn’t it interesting that the scene they chose to whet our appetites with was the lunch scene. Financiers eating stupidly expensive food that they’ll actually charge back to a client whilst barely stopping to acknowledge or savour any morsel. Just the price. And then laugh. And then snort some more coke off a whore’s derriere. That’s living alright. Even today, in this chastened and prudent era, one imagines sumptuous neo-cuisine is being plated the length and breadth of Wall St. and Bishopsgate, as the (ever so slightly) financially diminished masters of the universe loosen their braces and chuckle at their latest portion of excellent luck. The food will be of little note and everything is as one expects it to be.
And then the Angler comes along to sort of ruin the scenario. Located near the top of the South Place Hotel, a smart, sharp down-the-line destination a short walk west from Liverpool Street, this is the City dinery that offers two things that stand out from its brethren – honest, simple food and very reasonable prices. Yes, the room is clean and sumptuous and modern and functional, as one would expect. Lots of glass allowing one to take in all the other glass-skinned temples of trade, so they can see you as you observe them – a sort of upmarket panopticon. Its interior sleekness – mirrored ceiling and raked walls – creates the illusion of restaurant set on the penultimate deck of a billionaire’s Superyacht. And this is apposite. Because what the Angler does very well is seafood.
“The freshness of the fish is paramount”, says executive chef Tony Fleming. “I’ve got brilliant connections with small, family-run fishermen whose day boat catches mean that we have the pick of the best.” Chef de Partie for Marco Pierre White, first at the Criterion, at the triple Michelin-starred Oak Room, then stints at the Oxo Tower and One Aldwych means that this man knows the top end of London dining as good as anyone and is attuned to what floats their (high-end, helipad-sporting) boats.
And Michelin thinks so too, having awarded the it a star last September. Not bad for a fish restaurant that does very decent business in both senses of the word. Being very much in the Not-working lunch team, I can savour my starter. Heroic shellfish ravioli (it’s actually one pleasingly large, plump raviolo) is served with a perfectly balanced tomato and chive butter, tart and tangy and creamy. A hint of acid to cut through the sweet juiciness of the crustaceal filling, aided by warm blips of fennel and ginger. Across the table, jiggy Orkney scallops are happily nestled against a small but lavishly rich dollop of red wine braised beef. Just in case the dish doesn’t possess enough luxuriant mouthfeel, a creamy butternut squash holds the kings in place, aided by a drizzle of nutty brown butter.
With nothing more on the agenda, we seamlessly move to the mains. I am happily lost in the various components of my cornish cod, which is as perfect a piece of white fish as one could hope for, even without all its little friends. Light, fluffy salt cod cakes, scattered amongst whole roasted garlic, slivers of chanterelle, sprigs of thyme and all framed with a firmly reduced, sticky jus. Oh did I mention the crisp-skinned chicken thigh that provided this gleaming gravy? Yum and nom about covers it. Too immersed to consider exchange rates, I barely notice my companion’s roasted turbot, majestic and proud, crowned with a jewel-like squid ragu and a cape of sea purslane – a salty beach vegetable that’s exotic and simple at the same time. A 2012 Austrian Gottweiger Berg Gruner Veltliner is green, rounded and fresh enough to balance both dishes perfectly.
Desserts are a waist-worrying, tongue-stroking chocolatey treat. There’ll be no deals struck after the hazelnut cake with salted caramel, served with two opposed sorbets (lime and vanilla) and the perfectly gooey chocolate fondant, which oozes slowly enough to put another hour on this ‘meeting’. Anyone who can eat food this good, break away from it to contribute anything sensical about the LIBOR fiasco and then even return to work afterwards is indeed a master/mistress of the Universe and worth every contested bonus they receive. Greed might not be good. But the Angler sure is.
Angler at South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, London EC2M 2AF. Restaurant & terrace opening times: lunch is served from 12.00pm-2.30pm Monday to Friday and dinner from 6.00pm-10.00pm Monday to Saturday. Contact: +44(0)20 3215 1260 anglerrestaurant.com.