Monday, 6 September 2010

An Animated Lunch at Francesco Mazzei's L'Anima

L'Anima has been a favourite Italian restaurant of London food-lovers in the know since it opened its doors in June 2008. A translation of the Italian for 'the soul', it's clear that owner Francesco Mazzei has certainly poured his heart and anima into this modern, sunlit space in the City.

This Calabrian chef certainly has form, having previously cooked at St Alban, Franco's and a number of Alan Yau's restaurants amongst others. I never experienced his cooking at any of these places, but have been wanting to visit L'Anima for several months.

When a friend suggested a few of us visit for a decadent Friday lunch, having met Franco and some of his team at a recent event about Italian cured meats, I was keen to join her.

We squeezed in a date just before L'Anima closed for the month of August for an expansion that increases it's capacity by 40%.

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dining room

A couple of us were late, so two of us had a drink in the bar beforehand. When our errant companions arrived, it wasn't long before we were lead from the bar area into the dining room and given complimentary glasses of Prosecco as a greeting from Franco.

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olives; bread basket

The enormous green olives were extremely good – all the more surprising because I usually only like black ones. I understand they're imported from Puglia and must try and find a way to get my hands on some…

A bowl of breads, including cute little slices of pizza bread, was served and didn't last long.

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amuse bouche

I didn't write down the description of our amuse bouche but it included seafood in a light, flavoursome broth with herbs, vegetables and a crunchy toast.

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burrata, courgette flowers; fritto misto

I'm so glad we agreed to share starters – choosing three between the four of us. We had the burrata d’andria with red onion jam & extra virgin olive oil (£9.50), baccalá stuffed courgette flower & romano pepper sauce (£13.50) and fritto misto (£14.75).

Although I'd heard of it, I'd never had burrata before and was captivated by it . It's a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream – the outside is solid mozzarella with an interior of mozzarella and cream. The name translates as 'buttered' and it's a wonderfully delicate and rich treat.

I'd never have chosen the courgette flowers myself – I'm not a huge fan of baccalá (salted cod). But I'm so glad someone picked it; it was light, crunchy, soft and full of savoury flavour. To my surprise, I'd have this again.

On to the generous plate of fritto misto; a gargantuan pile of lightly battered and fried fish and seafood delights. Now, I enjoyed the fritto misto at Polpo, Soho, which was light and tasty and took me straight back to Venice. But I can see why people have been telling me to try L'Anima's version – it really is magnificent. And great value for such a large portion.

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pork belly; deep fried zucchini

My main of slow roasted black pig belly with n’cantarata sauce (£19.75) was decent but didn't blow me away half as much as all three of the starters. The sauce, made with honey, paprika & spices, was a little harsh for me – a very strong flavour against the gentle sweetness of the meat.

But I did love our shared side dish of deep fried zucchini (£5.50) – a bowl of matchsticked courgettes fried in a crisp batter. Addictive!

To drink I had a non-alcoholic cocktail, the Eden (£5.50) – a blend of fresh kiwi, fresh apple & pineapple juice with elderflower syrup. Just to my taste.

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fish stew, lobster pappardelle, lamb shank

Other mains seemed to go down well – particularly the fish stew with sardinian fregola (£24.50). I was tempted by this but am not a huge fan of fregola (hard durum wheat cous cous). Additionally, the flavour wasn't disimilar to the amuse bouche we'd been served earlier.

Native lobster pappardelle & herbs (£23.50) was a dish of few ingredients prepared simply and well.

Only the lamb shank, from the specials of the day, disappointed – neither as tender nor as flavoursome as hoped.

By this time, we were absolutely stuffed, so no space for desserts. But it just gives me an excuse to visit again soon (and admire the new, larger space).

Prices reflect the quality of ingredients and skilled cooking, as well as the City of London location and make it too expensive for it to be a regular haunt for me, though I can see why some choose to visit again and again.

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9 comments:

Niamh said...

Nice photos, Kavey! I do love L'Anima. Francesco is extremely talented and it's a real pleasure to eat his food.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Those olives look like the delicious ones I had at Pizza East. They were very mild and lovely. Very fresh, the best ones I ever ate. I wonder if they were the same ones.
*kisses* HH

The Grubworm said...

I've heard a lot of very good things about L'Anima and your write up would seem to support this. I'm now saving up for a visit - definitely a special occasion kind of place.

Kavey said...

@Niamh - had been meaning to go for so long, so was very happy when May suggested this lunch time visit.

@HH - they were great olives; we must track them down!

@TheGrubworm - hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Holy moly, that looks good... Really have to get myself to L'Anima sometime soon...

May said...

A nice reminder for a stunning lunch and especially when the chefs Francesco and Lelo are so hospitable. Must go back again soon to see their new expansion. Must go and write up my post on this lunch.

Kavey said...

@May - it was indeed lovely and thanks again for organising...

Wen said...

thanks for this writeup - quite a few dishes I'd be keen to try, like the frito misto, lobster pasta and zuchinni fries. And bachalau stuffed ourgette flowers! what a great idea

Kavey said...

Hi Wen, thanks, I hope you enjoy!