Restaurants & Bars 4

L'Anima, City, London

limster | Mar 14, 2009 03:26 PM

Highly refined versions of honest Italian cooking.

Salt cod/baccala in finely creamed into a light mousse-like texture that remains true to its flavour. A quenelle of the baccala on a rectangle of grilled polenta (a little reminiscent of Roman gnocchi, crisp on the surface, tender inside), the toasty flavour of the polenta and it's crisp firm texture contrasting nicely with the nuanced saltiness of the baccala. More of the creamy baccala, stuffed in a little roasted pepper, a different contrst of flavours, cream of the ocean against a smoky green of the land. A very delicate drizzle of anchovie sauce enhances the pleasant fishy qualities of the baccala.

Strascinati, flat lobes of pasta were only a tiny shade softer than I would have liked, I wanted a bit more of that tiny bit of resilience in the pasta, but it's a quibble. A green sauce of what I think is turnip tops (from the menu) is perfectly applied, just enough sauce to carry the verdant flavour and the luxuriance of the oil. Good clams, tiny but succulent, an oceany counterpart to the spicy calabrian sausage. I wished the batons of sausage were diced instead, to provide a better balance of sausage and clams wtih each mouthful, but again a quibble. A pinot bianco drank beautifully here, a mild sweetness opening up against the heat of the sausage, a mineral quality that enlivens and is enlivened by the sauce and the clams, and crisp acidity to cut the richness of the oil-based sauce.

The fish stew has very graceful and mellow layers of flavour; a light yet discernible fish/seafood in the base, then a tang of tomato, and finally a certain liveliness, probably from herbs (fennel? basil?). The texture of the stew is light , almost airy, with very little gelatin from fish bones. The pieces of fish are soft but still some what firm, the mussels and clams (lots of them) plump and tender. The prawns are a touch too soft, nothing like the ripping texture at say Chez Liline. Finally, good nubs of fregola/sardinian cous cous, tender but not mushy.

Robiola was a fairly homely cheese by itself, but is perked up by the fragrance of celery and toasty walnuts, along with what I thoght was some sort of candied fruit, dense and chewy, lending remarkable life to the cheese. Raisin bread makes for great support.

A frozen truffle - chocolate and hazelnut ice cream on the outside, a few wonderfully crunchy hazelnuts within, and a core of liquid chocolate. Excellent classic flavour combination. The smoothness of the ice cream was undermined a bit by the dusting of cocoa powder, that gave each mouthful a powdery texture. Comparable to Scoop in terms of the quality of ice cream.

Careful, attentive service. Expensive, but worthwhile, with minor nitpicky things rather than actual flaws.

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