I was recently invited by gastropub Fox & Anchor to enjoy a complimentary dinner. Located opposite Smithfield Market, this traditional Victorian pub (with six bedrooms upstairs) has been serving customers for over a hundred years. It’s an intimate and narrow space, and you have to practically hold your breath in to squeeze past the drinkers standing at the bar. We headed towards the back of the pub, past various tables here and there, to find three wood-panelled snugs, two larger ones and one cosy one for two people. My brother and I spent the evening in comfortable armchairs in the smallest snug.
The menu is simple, with Maldon oysters and prawns, plus a few starters including pressed ox tongue, celeriac remoulade and wild garlic. There are four options on toast, such as the ham toastie with fried duck egg and fish finger buttie. The mains include a choice of four types of pie, five specials and eight other dishes, plus the ‘carving trolley’ option. It’s a meat and fish-heavy menu, with rather limited options for vegetarians unfortunately. I was glad not to have to sit next to a grumpy vegetarian husband, but rather my brother, who eats anything and in vast quantities, or so I thought.
What we ordered:
pint of prawns
(£8.95) – I was looking forward to these, and they didn’t disappoint. When I was shown the pint tankard, I wasn’t sure a pint would be enough, but it’s more than plentiful for two. They were lovely and fresh and came with mayonnaise (which wasn’t needed)
deep fried white bait, spicy mayonnaise
(£6.20) – I don’t usually like fish deep fried, and the batter on these delicate little things overwhelmed them somewhat. However, we did manage to demolish the entire serving!
Welsh rarebit (aka rabbit)
(£4.95) – I only had a small bite of this, so I can’t really comment on it, but as with the other starters, it was consumed with relish
Lancashire lamb hotpot, mash potato lid
(£9.95) – this looked lovely, but the brother was surprisingly starting to flag at this point, and wasn’t able to finish it
rabbit & cider pie with thyme and bacon dumplings
(£13.50) – for me, the absolute star of the evening and highly recommended. The pie crust was thick but flaky and the rabbit was deliciously tender and flavoursome. I had to leave the dumplings though as I was also starting to flag by now
goose fat chips
(£3.00) – heavenly thick-cut chips! If I hadn’t been feeling so full, I would have eaten the entire portion
duck fat roast potatoes
(£3.00) – compared to the chips, these were a little disappointing and not as fluffy inside as they could have been
lightly spiced plum fool
(£5.50) – it was a struggle to get beyond the piece of plum on the top of the fool and I admitted defeat soon after…
Our extremely hearty meal was served by two very friendly waitresses, who stopped by our snug just enough times to serve us efficiently without being overly intrusive. I really enjoyed my evening at the Fox & Anchor, mostly because I was ensconced in our snug. Generally, I don’t like pubs much, whether normal or gastro. I hate to shout over my food and be surrounded by too much noise (and in the old days, sit in clouds of smoke!). So if you’re a delicate flower like me, ask for a snug when you reserve a table. I think they’re great for hanging out with friends and you still get some of the pub atmosphere without being overwhelmed by it.
Had we paid for this meal, it would have cost approximately £60.00 without service charge, tip or alcohol.
10 – Perfection, 9.5 – Sensational, 9 – Outstanding, 8.5 – Superb, 8 – Excellent, 7.5 – Very Good, 7 – Good, 6.5 – Above Average, 6 – Average