Anthologist, EC2V 7BB
- 0845 468 0101
- 58 Gresham Street, EC2V 7BB
- 8am-11pm Mon-Wed; 8am-1am Thu-Fri; 9:30pm-3am Sat; closed Sun
The entrance opens onto the restaurant, a large open room with floorboards and high ceilings, broken up with tall bookshelves bearing rows of red wine bottles and attractive glassware. Pommery champagne bottles line the plate glass windows in the back half of the restaurant, while the front overlooks Gresham Street. There is a "lunch counter" overlooking the open-plan kitchen, where at Kerry's October 2011 visit I was seated about two feet away from colourful fish fillets on ice; I could also hear every word of conversations among the kitchen staff as they shouted directions and complained about the lunch rush.
To the left of the restaurant there are several booths for 4-10 people, decorated with different vintage wallpapers, a Japanese tea room-style glass box (seated 10-20), and a circular sofa and several ottomans and armchairs (seated 10-15). There is a small wine bar with exposed brickwork behind it, and a whitewashed stone function room downstairs that looked like it could fit 40-60 people. There are no dividing walls in the room, so these spaces all run into each other, and candles in elaborate holders rest on every table. It worked for me, but others might find the atmospheric mishmash a bit incoherent.
To the right of the entrance there appeared to be a deli, with retro-looking items such as Spam in the window, but it was unclear whether this was a functioning shop or an ironic affectation.
At my Thursday lunchtime visit, the place was packed and buzzing, as is to be expected in the City. I asked whether I could be in and out in 30 minutes, and the host assented; I was out in 31. I was immediately shown to my seat and handed a menu; with 90 seconds a server had arrived to take my drink order. The mint julep came promptly in the correct type of cup, and although it was a touch on the sweet side, this may have been because it was the bar's London Cocktail Week special and was intended to be a mint julep "with a twist" (the twist was sugar, apparently).
As is also to be expected in the City, the food was extremely overpriced. My paltry steak sandwich on ciabatta was slightly smaller than an A6 paper and cost £9 (plus an extra £3 for very basic, unspectacular chips). Although the steak was excellent quality, it was overcooked, the ciabatta was stale (indeed, I saw kitchen staff opening suspiciously supermarket-looking plastic bags of bread) and the sandwich did not come with mustard, as the menu claimed.
The toilets are down a flight of stairs and are relatively grand, with a Dyson-Airblade-One-Better hand dryer that blows lightly citrus-scented air. There is a wooden porch swing hanging between the men's toilets and the stairs, above a small patch of indoor grass with red wellies and a plastic shovel and bucket sitting beside it.
Kerry's verdict: Overall, for me the atmosphere overcame the egregious food markups, although I suspect I have a higher tolerance than many for affected "quirkiness". I wouldn't eat here again but I would happily meet a friend here for after-work cocktails (reasonably priced for the area at £7-12) or coffee.