Lured by the promise of “the finest of contemporary Italian cuisine” (and by Food Snob’s review from last year), I had high expectations upon entering the glass-walled (yet intimate) space of L’Anima. With its white leather chairs and white roses in square vases on tables, this place felt like a New York restaurant to me, though not any one in particular.
And so I was relieved when the bread arrived and it was good (focaccia, which has been verging on stale everywhere I’ve had it lately in London). Here, it was warm, soft, and salty. And with a dish of olive oil and a bottle of Barbaresco, I didn’t really need anything more all night. (The restaurant had an extensive, expensive wine list—mostly Italian bottles—and included some surprises, such as a bottle from this small producer who also runs an agriturismo that we stayed at recently in Tuscany.)
But I persevered past the bread and wine and moved on to fried zucchini (courgette) blossoms stuffed with baccalà mousse: delicate, crisp, and delicious, but then I always love a bit of baccalà. (Dan had a satisfying plate of burrata with roasted aubergine, also wonderful: really, how could you go wrong with this?)
You can then choose a small pasta course before moving on to your main, if you like, or just have a larger serving of pasta and be done with it—since we are in the UK and eating pasta for dinner is perfectly acceptable here. It’s hard for me to resist pasta for dinner, so I ordered the taglierini with chili and crab, which was luscious, though I could have used more of both the chili and crab, and I have to admit that it did make me long for that superior pasta concoction with crab and sea urchin at Esca, but what can you do. (Well, you can make it at home; the recipe is in this cookbook: The Young Man and the Sea: Recipes and Crispy Fish Tales from Esca.)
Dan had a vitello tonnato that was, he says, “very nice, well-balanced, and restrained.” But “not revolutionary,” and he compared his meal to the food at Craft, where each dish is perfectly turned out without being overwhelmed by sauces and other extravagances. A side dish of sautéed peppers and potatoes was “very, very nice,” he added.
By the time we got to gianduja cake, I can’t remember much except that it was unexpectedly light and I’m pretty sure it was good. That is, we ate all of it.