I am a sucker for the shiny newness and also rather fond of a tasty breakfast, so the opening of L'Anima, a new restaurant nestled in the shiny glass and metallic mattness of one of the units under my office, was something I have been looking forward to. The problem was that it just wouldn't open, a problem that it seems was due to a dispute over an extension to the restaurant space (thankyou to Dos Hermanos for telling me after the fact what I could not find out at the time, despite working upstairs). The long delayed opening (the time before which was punctuated with numerous pieces of rebuilding, the placing of tarpaulins and the building of temporary indoor tents to house various soft furnishings) led to a variety of differing opinions on reasons for the lack of appearance of a working restaurant, despite the kitchen staff beavering away every day, seemingly to rustle up lunch for the same four slightly tired looking managerial gentlemen. In the end we decided that it was part of a Brewster's Millions type scheme by which someone had to get rid of a vast quantity of money within a certain timeframe without giving it away - running a restaurant on the north edge of the city, just inside the Hackney borders seems to be an enterprise tailor made to help Richard Pryor beat the crazy terms of that millionaire's will. However, disputes have now been settled, they have now been up and running for the last few weeks and I have been waiting for an excuse to go and sample their wares. All in the interests of SCIENCE! of course.
The website has claimed for many months that when they finally did open they would offer breakfast, and after a week or so of a worryingly deserted and darkened restaurant each morning, this week there have been a few members of staff looking forlornly out of the door each morning as I walked past. So (and here's my excellent excuse), finally beaten down by the sad eyes of the early morning shift I wandered through their doors this morning to sample a full english.
The menu is quite simple - a full english, a full italian, a variety of eggs, a variety of fruity based things and all the components of the above available seperately. And toast. After a small amount of negotiation over the substitution of other things for the tomato and mushrooms, I ordered a full english with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice, and a plate of toast. I opened my book and read while the components of my breakfast were brought together from elementary particles and brought to me. The restaurant has the slightly aloof air of the fine dining house, as it does indeed bill itself, and my slightly scruffy and chatty nature has on occasion thrown the staff of such places. Again here, an empty restaurant colonised by myself and a table of three besuited banking types on an obvious expense account, there was a slight feeling of unease, but it disappeared quickly as the smiley staff delivered tasty juice, mediocre coffee (I don't understand how pretty much every expensive restaurant I have been to fails on coffee - especially during breakfast. It was no City Cafe ghettocino, but it was significantly closer to institutional coffee than the good but hidden coffee shop fare that you find in London. Merely drinkable but nothing to write about. So I won't. Any more) and a selection of silver cover covered tiny plates. A few pages later the rest of my breakfast arrived:
Under the silver covers hid butter, marmalade and strawberry jam, and on the plate sat a small mountain of bacon, a couple of rather good looking sausages and two perfectly cooked fried eggs. The sausages were excellently cooked lincolnshires, with good seasoning and a minimal browned crust that gave just enough of the caramelised tastiness that you require from a sausage, before breaking to give way to gloriously steamed-in-the-skin sausage meat. The bacon was very good, with a light crispiness to the edges while maintaining the softness that distinguishes british style bacon from it's states-side counterpart. It was flavourful and excellently salty. The eggs were cooked to perfection, runny but with enough solidity to the yolks that they were easily used as a condiment for the other parts of the breakfast. I am only sad that I don't like mushrooms or tomatoes. Half way through my animal based feast I was presented with my order of toast - a snip at £1 for a slice of brown and one of white, cut into quarter slice triangles and laid out on a large oval plate to go cold^H^Hfor serving. On a side note, this is something I wonder about - why serve toast cut into prohibitively small pieces that go cold quickly? It seems foolish to me. However, the toasty was toasty, but cold, the jam jammy, the marmelade...you can see where this is going. Service was attentive and friendly, but not overly so and despite worries that the interior would be a bit operating theatre-like, with the full length floor-to-ceiling window offering a nice view of the diners' filthy eating habits, the atmosphere was relaxed with some scarily cheesy music drifting through the speakers. The ambience was only interrupted by the Friday morning fire alarm test, the whoopwhoops of which I normally dance around the office to, but as all the punters were 'locals' we are used to such things and no comment was made.
It's early days yet for L'Anima and it has been, to be nice about it, entirely dead so far - when you walk past at 8pm and there are two customers and ten visible staff members then you know things aren't going great. I hear that last night was rammed in there, but I suspect that could well have been the official opening night. However, reviews seem good and I hope it does well. I have issues with its existence, as I reckon that the place that I felt was described by the license application (cafe/bar, open from 7am-2am, serving coffee and food during the day and meals in the evening with a bar with external seating) would have been a much better idea both financially (although I am far from being in anyway knowledgable about finance and the finance of the restaurant trade is something that I have ideas about merely from translating the staccato morse code of Gordon Ramsay's shouted FUCKs on Kitchen Nightmares) and also more selfishly for me specifically, as it would reduce my walk to the sandwich shop by a good minute. L'Anima won't be a regular haunt, but in times of prententious breakfast need or a nice evening meal it willl happily stay on my list.
On the Randomness guide