One such place is Anglo, the self-styled ‘modern British dining room’. Since opening in Farringdon earlier this year, it has impressed critics and customers alike with its outstanding cuisine and a no-frills approach (simple reclaimed furniture and hand-thrown tableware make up the interior). Together with head chef Jack Cashmore, Mark Jarvis cooks unfussy yet refined dishes, with a five-course tasting menu and an à la carte menu available at lunch and a seven-course tasting menu at dinner. Typical lunch dishes include Yorkshire lamb shoulder with fermented cabbage and anchovy, and red-legged partridge with celeriac and damson. All change weekly and capitalise on seasonal produce.
With a wealth of experience between them – Jarvis’s CV includes stints at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Texture, while Cashmore has worked under restaurateur Sat Bains in Nottingham before he headed to In De Wulf in Belgium – their influences are certainly diverse. Dishes such as red mullet with carrot, sea beet and seaweed butter and aged Hereford beef with cep mushrooms and glazed shallots have clearly been the result of much careful consideration, and Jarvis cites his time at Le Manoir as a huge influence. “We were encouraged to really push ourselves as chefs and be creative,” he says, “from analysing different flavours to inspecting dishes and cooking the seasons.”
It seems that this creativity even extends to the consistency of the food. Although a fundamental part of eating, the concept of texture has traditionally been overshadowed by taste and presentation. At Anglo, however, it is celebrated. You only have to look at the evening’s seven-course tasting menu to see this. Canapés of beetroot crisp, scallop tartare with oyster emulsion and a burnt leek tartlet are designed to tantalise, with the crisp, wafer-thin layers of filo pastry providing the satisfyingly crunchy support to the buttery puréed leeks and delicate chive powder on top. An approach, perhaps, that Jarvis learned during his time working at Aggi Sverrisson’s appropriately named restaurant Texture. “While I was there we really focused on paring back all the butters and creams that were being used at most other restaurants,” he comments, “to get straight to the natural flavours of the ingredients.”
This simplicity – the idea of stripping back the layers to get to the heart of the food – is evident when you consider that one of the most popular and successful dishes at Anglo is in fact one of its most basic – the cheese and onion malt loaf. Certainly, this style of cooking is miles apart from the heavy, complicated and often cloying food of the Nineties. But when it comes to texture – the contrasting layers and consistencies – is this approach instinctive or is it a considered game plan? It seems that it must be the latter, as the team’s initial preparation involves sitting down, discussing different ingredients they have come across that go well together, and then using this as a basis for adding other ingredients or, indeed, removing them. “It’s not a quick process,” adds Jarvis, “but it’s effective and really pushes us all to think creatively.”
Many of the most talked-about restaurants in London at the moment are ‘modern British’, and none more so than Anglo. Again, this is not necessarily something the British would have been proud of in the past. According to Jarvis, this relatively new interest is in part due to the fact that British produce has until recently been underrated. “We’re really lucky in the UK as we have some excellent breweries and farmers,” he explains. These often small-scale, local producers and suppliers give restaurants and their menus more of a story, piquing the interest of customers. “People want to know where their food comes from, and the details are more important to them – the suppliers, the farms, where things are grown. They want to know the processes the food has gone through before it’s got to their plate,” he says.
Yet, despite these changes, fine dining is not dead, according to Jarvis; it’s just evolving like everything else. Which begs the question: what does the future hold? “I think people are getting bored with chains. They want something independent, a place where they can feel the personality in the room, coming from the kitchen, the menu, the design,” he says.
The city’s ever-rising rent prices will also have a big effect on the types of establishments that open, he believes, as many restaurants are being forced to move out of the mainstream areas such as the West End. This will in turn give people the freedom to do what they want with their establishments, as they’ll no longer have to cater to the market in front of them. And this will be “a great thing for driving creativity and diversity in the industry”, concludes Jarvis. For now, though, there’s a new breed of restaurant, like Anglo, offering refined food cooked with exceptional skill, but served in an informal and unpretentious space. And there’s not a starched tablecloth in sight.
30 St. Cross Street, EC1N 8UH. 020 7430 1503. www.anglorestaurant.com