NOTE: Since this review was published, Anima e Cuore has become immensely popular. If you are thinking of going for dinner, especially at weekends, booking well in advance is essential. The Time Out Eating and Drinking Editors
From the outside, Anima e Cuore appears to be a gelateria and café. But the tiny restaurant at the back (22 covers only) serves – at very low prices – Italian food that can stand comparison with the best in the capital.
This stretch of Kentish Town Road has had an influx of high-quality eating and drinking places, but it is still not a place where you’d expect to find cooking of this quality. And the restaurant itself looks unimpressive, with essentially non-existent decor and an amateurishly presented menu. But some extraordinary food makes you forget everything else.
Daily specials of ravioli are a key feature here, and we ordered both. One filled the silky pasta with baccalà (salt cod) and accompanied it with a perfect rendition of the Venetian classic ‘sarde in saor’, fried sardines in a vinegar-based marinade. In another, the filling was three cheeses and the sauce a light but flavourful duck ragù. These were as good as any pasta dishes I’ve tasted. Anywhere.
There is a fish and a meat special every day. When we visited the meat was shredded ox cheek, cooked sous vide (sealed in a plastic pouch and poached in a water bath for 48 hours), on a bed of creamy, cheesy white polenta. This was one of those dishes that make you dread the moment when the plate is empty.
Save room for dessert. The own-made ice creams and sorbets are of exceptional quality; try the chocolate or banana sorbet and the hazelnut, vanilla or pistachio ice cream. Baked goods are equally distinguished, especially a chocolate tart of thrilling intensity. Each dessert is served with a flavour-complementary ice cream.
Anima e Cuore is BYOB – and there’s a good Oddbins five minutes up the road. For the food, three of us spent £69 before service. Yes, £69 for 3 courses. You could spend that at a very ordinary neighbourhood trattoria.
Three caveats must be noted. One: the numerous daily specials have to be laboriously explained and are hard to remember; the restaurant needs a blackboard. Two: I have no experience of eating here when it’s rammed (locals already know how good it is). Three: don’t expect mega-comfort or ambiance; it’s all about the food here.
Between them, proprietors Mustapha Mouflih and Alessandro Altoni have worked at restaurants including The Ledbury, L’Anima, Sketch and Le Gavroche. It shows. Anima e Cuore means heart and soul, and the owners have clearly thrown theirs into the restaurant. Ignore the setting. Anima e Cuore may be diminutive in size, but it’s a giant when it comes to quality.
|Venue name:||Anima e Cuore|
129 Kentish Town Rd
|Opening hours:||Tue-Wed 7-9pm; Thur-Sat noon-2.30pm, 7-9pm; Sun noon-2.30pm|
|Transport:||Tube: Kentish Town|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
4 / 5
- 5 star:4
- 4 star:4
- 3 star:1
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:1
Spectacular food and spectacular value. There is now an al fresco space at the back (not sure if this is new) and while it is normally a challenge to get a reservation, was lucky enough to get a walk-in table for two on a recent visit, so it's worth trying your luck. Service is just as phenomenal as the food, and the bill, when it arrives, provides the opposite of sticker shock - it is insanely good value considering the quality of the food.
Die echte italienische Küche war überragend und schmeckte sehr gut. Dafür 5 Sterne. Die Portionen hätten etwas größer sein können und es waren keine Preise auf der Karte. Dafür habe ich einen Stern abgezogen. Neben dem Essen waren die freundlichen und hübschen Bedienungen ein Genuss.
Uh-oh, no prices on the menu …
Encouraged by the gashing reviews in Time Out and by previous visitors, we decided to give Anima e Cuore a go but our experience was somewhat different, and highly disappointing. Be it change of management or of business model, when we arrived for a light Saturday lunch we were presented with a menu without prices, which should have been a first warning sign. In the manner of grander establishements we were then taken through the menu, and only when asking, given the prices.
It turned out that prices for starters ranged between £8.50 and £10, and mains, mostly pasta dishes, between £14.50 and £20 – which I would certainly not rate in the category “cheap”. The food, which we never tasted, may be delicious and of high quality, but they really should advertise prices outside or on the menu, and spare the wrong target audience a visit.
The not-as-great end of Kentish Town is quickly becoming a contender for the greatest end of NW5. Not least because of places like this little gem. I've walked past Amina e Cuore a few times and note batted an eyelid. It looks like an ice-cream parlour with questionable/non-existent decor. But more and more people have been talking about it. And Time Out themselves have been raving about it. So, an outgoing colleague and I thought we'd give it a go at lunchtime for her farewell. Walking in, it really doesn't look up to much - it's pretty bare (apart from the hubbub going on behind the counter and in the kitchen) and there's not a menu in sight. The (charming and handsome) waiter comes up to you and recites the daily offerings off a printed and repeatedly folded sheet of A4 paper. And everything sounds delicious. To start, we shared tomato-soaked stale bread topped with sharp and tangy burrata and spinach "gnocchi-style things that aren't gnocchi" in a sage butter emulsion - light as air and delicate tasting. For mains, my colleague had rich octopus black spaghetti and I had the unctuous, soft and silky seafood pasta (pictured). Homemade pasta. You really can't go wrong. Dessert was a tiramisu - pillowy-soft, a good hit of caffeine and perfectly balanced layers. This place is good. Very good, in fact. At £27.50 per head for three courses and a very full belly, I'd say that's a good deal. Five stars minus one, for lack of effort on the interior design-front. Sort that out and you're onto a winner.