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When one of the smartest Italian restaurants in the Square Mile decides to do a casual spin-off, it doesn’t mean you can show up in your flip-flops or bring the kids. So don’t let the rustic harvest festival-esque display or cute table bouquets of herbs and fruit fool you either. L’Anima’s little sister might have a softer look and more relaxed menu than the white and chrome flagship, but it’s every bit as City slick.
Located just one street away from chef Francesco Mazzei’s original restaurant, this expansive, glass-fronted spot boasts more than just a ‘less formal’ eatery. There’s also a bar with all-day dining to soak up those after-work drinks or cheeky afternoon pints, and a deli is packed with take-away Italian salads, pizza by the slice and sweet snacks for lunching office workers.
Soon after we sat down a welcome trolley arrived. It was loaded with excellent own-made breads ranging from cheesy grissini to swirls of ’nduja (a spreadable, spicy Calabrian ‘sausage’) plus dips such as roasted aubergine, and an anchovy and tomato version of the ancient Roman fermented fish sauce, garum. There’s no such thing as a free breadstick in the City, though, as this costs £3.75 for a selection.
As with L’Anima, the restaurant menu here is inspired by southern Italian cuisine. The presentation has few of the artistic smears and blobs you’ll find at the older sibling, and you won’t find the the pasta mountains that an Italian mamma would fatten her family up on. Instead the dishes are simple yet elegant assemblies.
An eye-catching dish of black squid-ink pasta flecked with tender, white squid strands and red chilli slices, accompanied by a charred lemon wedge, was dainty in size, but big on savoury flavours. A smooth bowl of blended chickpea soup with plump, sweet prawns and chilli oil was thick and rich – perfect cold-weather food (something to look forward to for winter).
While everything we tried was executed well, some dishes were less exciting than others. The sausage and broccoli pizza was satisfyingly squidgy from its thick cheese topping, and substantial enough to sate the City’s hungriest fat cats, but was just a little bland.
Francesco Mazzei is a chef well known for his consistent and quality southern Italian cooking. And with prices that don’t require an expense account, plus efficient but friendly service, L’Anima Café will bolster his reputation further. Just don’t expect this ‘café’ to be much more informal than the chinos and tie-free collars of dress-down Friday at a finance firm.
10 Appold Street
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