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Apr 4, 2008 06:13 AM

Anchor & Hope

Anchor and Hope is a gastro-pub located near the Tate Modern Museum and the Old Vic theater. It has been written about extensively on multiple food sites and lauded often by bloggers. It was recommended as a final dining experience one evening by a London local and I honestly had forgotten that I had received previous recommendations. Unfortunately, what transpired almost ruined what could have been a stellar dining experience.

As it was our last day in London, my old friend and I were tromping around the Thames, anticipating meeting up with the rest of my party shortly around dusk at the Oxo tower for cocktails. Twenty minutes before our appointed cocktail time, I received a call that they were done with cocktails and getting hungry – why didn’t we all head to the Anchor and Hope and whomever was there first, snag a table for five. “L” tubed over and arrived at approximately 6:15 p.m. and was told a table would not be available until 7:30 or 8:00! Well, we went ahead and put our name down and headed around the corner to the Wellington for a pint. Needless to say, the fact that the people I was with was willing to wait an hour for this restaurant and not for Tayaabs a few days before was slightly annoying.

We returned at 7:30 and was told it would be another half-hour to 45 minutes. Okay, the boys headed off to another pub and I wandered around a local market. I went and found the boys at the other pub and they indicated they would be right back to Anchor & Hope. I walked back to the restaurant and we were informed that a table for five had been available while we were gone and that it would be another half hour. Can I express how upset we were all getting? By 8:45 (two-and-a-half hours after we checked in!) we got a table. And guess what? Half of what we wanted to order was already crossed off the list.

Starving at this point, we managed to order the beef ribs with béarnaise (their last of the evening), a roast duck (also their last, we were told), a snail salad, cuttlefish risotto, and a fennel gratin. The beef was excellently prepared, delightfully rare, and at this point, great tasting. The snail salad was my least favorite (especially after the one I had at St. John). The duck was quite hearty but I really liked what it was stuffed with (a bit of pork around some cabbage). The winner of the evening was the fennel gratin. All of the food was respectable but I think the enjoyment was due more to abject hunger and having waited so long. I would have liked to enjoy a dessert, but as it was getting on after 11:00 when we were finishing, it was too late for everyone who was anxious to leave. The setting is too crowded, too loud, and too cramped. I would be hard-pressed to ever want to return.

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  1. Can I ask why you didn't have a drink in the pub itself? Whenever I've been to Anchor and Hope we've just sat at the bar and then we're there when a table becomes available. I don't think you can blame them for giving away your table when you weren't there.

    7 Replies
    1. re: greedygirl

      Greedygirl, it was way too crowded and loud. There were five of us and there was simply no place for five of us to stand or sit except against the wall. At least at the Wellington -- even with a game on! -- we were able to all get couch and chair space. And we could hear each other.

      I don't necessarily blame them for giving away the table except that we very pointedly told them we would be wandering the neighborhood and offered them a cell phone number. I think the annoyance is that they wouldn't even consider taking a number and calling us when a table was available; in most cases, we were within a two-minute walk or less!

      Heck, I would love to have been in the bookstore down the street -- I could have walked back in under two minutes instead of hanging out in loud, crowded bars (their's or anyone else's!) if they would have considered taking my number and calling me when the table was ready. That lack of customer service surprises me.

      1. re: Carrie 218

        I feel your pain, Carrie. I too find their strict "no reservation" policy extremely annoying. The reality is that while they have people queuing for their tables, and willing to wait an hour or more, they have no reason to change it. Last time I went it was pre-theatre, and during the week, and we didn't have to wait as we were there so early. But I think those are the only circumstances at which I would eat at Anchor & Hope these days. You can book at their sister restaurant, Great Queen Street, so maybe you could consider that next time.

        1. re: greedygirl

          The real pisser for me on the trip was that I also wanted to eat at Tayaabs but this same group of four guys wouldn't wait an HOUR for stellar Indian food but would wait two hours for just okay gastro-pub food!

          1. re: Carrie 218

            Now that IS annoying. I am ashamed to say that I've never been to Tayaabs despite living in London for fifteen years! (I'll probably get thrown off the boards for admitting that...)

            1. re: Carrie 218

              If the food was 'just ok gastro-pub food' where would you suggest for good or great gastro-pub food? I've never had anything other than really good food at the Anchor and Hope, with good portions for the money.
              I understand the 'no reservations' policy is due to previous experience of too many no-shows to have a profitable business, or at least that is what they used to say. Actually sounds as if they may have relaxed things a bit, you used to only be able to get your name on the table list if all of your party were there - and if you left you had to start from scratch.

              1. re: ali patts

                Sorry - I'm just a tourist and am used to gastro-pub food in the States which, at least in San Francisco, tends to be a bit more innovative in its gastro-pub-ness.

                1. re: Carrie 218

                  Sorry -- I'm an SF resident too and we don't have gastropubs here. We have a few nice full-service beer bars, some of which also have decent food, and we have plenty of excellent bistros with bars. But NOTHING that is equivalent to the UK gastropub. My DH and I, who spend a lot of time each year in the UK, seriously feel the lack.

                  Moreover if you are using the UK pub as the definition of pub, there are few anywhere in the US that would qualify. The so-called gastropub concept was pretty much invented in London (by The Eagle on Farringdon Rd) although there have always been a few pubs with quite decent food, especially in the English countryside. So to compare the pubbishness of Anchor & Hope with ANYPLACE in San Francisco is just unclear on the concept.

      2. Though it's true it is a noisy pub it's usually not too bad. If you want to eat there you need to be there when a table comes up - it is the way they operate except on Sundays when you can book for lunch. Personally I love the place - I have never had a bad meal there and I've eaten there regularly since it opened.

        If you want a reservation then eat somewhere that takes them! But don't be tempted to go the Gt Queen Street route - it is so noisy in there that when you call to make a booking they can't hear you. Nor can they hear you when you arrive and tell them your name - you have to point to it on the list. Then shout your order. And then the food ain't so great.

        Do try A&H another time when you could maybe sit at one of the outside tables for a drink - or go early for lunch or a 6pm table with the pre theater crowd.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bron

          Spot on posts, bron and alipatts. It is a noisy pub - but at least it's people talking noise and not awful jukebox rubbish! You do need to choose your time if you want a table immediately, but if you're flexible about where you sit, it's not usually such a drag. A late Saturday lunch last week was a delight, to add to the other great meals I've had there. And although some have complained about the service, I've never found it anything but friendly, and willing to be accomodating as far as they can, given how busy it gets...