It’s ironic when the most defining feature of a restaurant that calls itself L’Anima (meaning ‘soul’) is that it doesn’t have any. Waiters adhere to a set of rules straight out of the Michelin play-book but absent are useful human qualities like charm, wit, and personality. They’re like Terminators that have been captured and accidentally reprogrammed to serve you food, instead of protecting a young Edward Furlong from liquid-metal death.
What’s more, the setting is mind-numbingly plain. Located on the ground level of a Bishopsgate office block, you enter into a glass-fronted affectation of sophistication. If sketch is the Russel Brand of restaurants with its flamboyant, overcompensating facade, then L’Anima is Dermot O’Leary – safe, slick and ‘vanilla’. The dining room is a ‘copy and paste’ nightmare of pinstriped expense accounts that make you feel like a CGI Keanu Reeves who’s unknowingly wandered into a building full of Agent Smiths. But instead of unreasonably fast punches and kicks, their weapon of choice is 7.1 surround sound bullshit.
But if the food is good, then do any of these things really matter? Unfortunately we’ll never know as it isn’t worth running home to tell your friends about. Nor is it awful, but at £16 on average for a starter, something similar for risotto and pasta, and most of the mains falling between £26-£32, you have the right to expect something more.
Beef carpaccio with truffle sauce & watercress salad £18.50
For example, there’s a starter of beef carpaccio where a circular bed of thin, raw strips of beef are topped with large shavings of parmesan arranged in heavy-handed fashion around a watercress salad with a stingy truffle paste. It just looks a little amateur, like the kind of thing the losing contestant would produce during the opening round of Masterchef: The Professionals. Other than a little sweetness from the beef and a hit of earthy richness from the truffle paste, there’s not much else to say about it. Oh and it cost me £18.50.
Chestnut pappardelle with wild boar ragout £13.00 (small portion)
Being a somewhat reputable Italian, I thought the pasta might be of some worth, but instead chestnut pappardelle comes overcooked to the point where it is flimsy. With it is a wild boar ragout that teases with soft, meaty textures, but doesn’t have the kind of rich, deep flavour it looks as though it should.
Black Scotch beef tagliata, marrow bone, Blu di Capra & ‘Magliocco sauce’ £32.50
In a dish so ugly even its own mother wouldn’t want it, a tumour of dry, chewy beef slices sprouts from a hollowed-out bone that overflows with horribly dry, gloopy mash potato. There is a surrounding pool of well-reduced jus, chunks of sharp Blu di Capra cheese and nuggets of salty bone marrow that are all rather nice, but make no difference as the dish had already ventured beyond the point of no return. This thrilling combination of gruesome and yuck will set you back £32.50.
Chocolate trio £10.50
I end on a slightly better note, with a plate of chocolate things that look more like the kind of geometric outlines you’d find on the cover of a maths textbook.
L’Anima has long been tipped for a Michelin star that never seems to come, and it doesn’t take a genius to see why. Who knows, maybe I just ordered the wrong things. Ingredients were well chosen but weren’t necessarily handled with the care and finesse you’d expect, and it showed both in the presentation and in the eating. The strangest thing is that the people who dine here don’t seem to mind at all.
Everything about this place makes me question how it manages to continually draw a packed-house, especially at these prices. But then it is in the City’s financial district, where the illusion of substance and sophistication outweighs the need to actually possess either. L’Anima mirrors this beautifully, and as such is a tailor-made waste-bowl for the banking crowd that trickles down from the offices above, where they can enjoy pissing away their expense accounts in an environment surrounded by their own.
food : 6/10
service : 6.5/10
ambience : 3.5/10
value : 3/10
1 Snowden Street, Broadgate West, London EC2A 2DQ
0207 422 7000