Posted on Sunday, 6th December 2009
If you want to know how to make linguine alle vongole, Francesco Mazzei can be found on YouTube with a series of videos demonstrating what to do. I checked them out myself and it all looked very tasty. Francesco Mazzei is the chef patron of L’Anima, a restaurant located near Broadgate Circus which opened last year to some acclaim. It’s garnered several awards this year, including a 2009 Harden’s Remy Martin Restaurant Award for Excellence.
So I decided to go and see for myself what all the fuss is about. The restaurant is one slick joint, catering to the well padded wallets of the city diner – or rather their expense accounts – so it’s not exactly cheap. Other than me, everyone was pretty much decked out in their city finery during my lunchtime. The restaurant is bright and spacious with a translucent feel to it which comes from the floor to ceiling glass panels that run the entire length of the restaurant. This was all very nice, but it made it rather confusing to find the entrance for the door is glass too. I ended up walking back and forth in front of the restaurant a couple of times, and I assure you it wasn’t just me being ditzy – my dining companion had trouble finding the door as well!
We started with octopus, cannellini beans and ricotta mustia (£15.50). The octopus was tender and nicely crisped, the cannelini beans were flavoursome, and the ricotta was rich with the taste of sheep’s milk. Each individual component of this dish was very nice, although with very little dressing in the salad, the combination of the cheese and the octopus proved to be a pretty dry eating experience. Nothing tasted bad, but you’re basically eating a firm dry cheese with grilled octopus. The dish needed some moisture to help it go down.
A wild mushroom fettuccine with black truffle starter (£12.50) yielded a lovely mushroom flavour, although it was a little underseasoned and had me reaching for the salt. The fettuccine was also, surprisingly, a little soft – it was too cooked to be considered al dente. With the mushroom and truffle, this was a nice dish, but the too-soft pasta let it down slightly.
A main of fish stew with Sardinian fregola (a lentil shaped pasta) (£23.50) was divine. Hearty, rustic, and filling, it came with some lovely fresh mussels, clams and John Dory. The pasta was cooked beautifully. Smothered in a sauce rich with the flavour of tomato and seafood, it made this dish very satisfying.
A main course serving of taglierini with garlic, chilli and crab (£17.50) was pleasing and light. The crab was flavoursome and mellow, and there was a gentle appetitising kick from the garlic and chilli. This was a very pleasant pasta course.
Breads were delicious and included a wonderfully soft focaccia that was so moist it was almost dreamy.
Dessert was an amaretto soufflé with amaretto sauce (£9.50). This was a very well made dessert. I couldn’t fault it technically and I have had many average soufflés. It was moist and not too eggy. The flavour of the amaretto was well balanced and did not overwhelm the palate.
Service was, like the décor in the restaurant, very slick. It was excellent and extremely professional, in the way that one would expect from a high end City restaurant.
Overall, this was an excellent meal. Although I thought the octopus dish would have worked better with more moisture, and that the fettucine could have been less cooked, I wasn’t really let down by the starters. Rather I had expected them to be a little bit better. But all said, you can tell that what comes out of the kitchen is generally excellent – a polished cooking technique applied to great ingredients to produce clean, yet distinctive flavours. Some of the other main courses looked fantastic, and I would happily go back again to explore more of the other dishes from the menu.