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L’Anima Cafe: Italian Soul Food

With my trip to Cannes in three weeks and Bali and Singapore shortly after, I had the best of intentions when I headed for dinner at L’Anima Cafe…maybe just one glass of prosecco, two light fish courses and definitely no dessert…who was I kidding?

L’Anima Cafe is the less formal little sister of the award-winning L’Anima restaurant – serving Southern Italian food that lives up to the meaning of the restaurant’s name. L’Anima is the Italian word for soul and the food is authentic and rustic; you can tell that the chefs really put their heart into creating the dishes.

The Aperol Spitz above is the fashionable drink this summer and the popular Italian aperitif is the perfect way to start a dinner now that the sun’s out on London. And a few flat bread pizza make the ideal accompaniment.

Regular readers will know I can’t help myself when it comes to bread and as soon as this stunning bruschetta topped with tomato, basil and garlic was placed on our table, all my good intentions went out the window. The tomatoes were so plump and juicy and though the bread was soaked in a gorgeous and fragrant olive oil it was still perfectly crisp and not at all soggy.

 

Salty parma ham and creamy burrata made a delicious topping for this flat bread…

 

….and I had to hold myself back from eating all of this mozzarella and basil pizza. Both had beautifully fresh tasting ingredients sourced from both Britain and Italy. I loved that the bases were so thin and crisp.

The restaurant itself is a large building with one fully windowed wall with light flooding through on the sunny evening. It’s also home to a lively bar and deli, with a takeaway menu of fresh Italian meals, and a shop selling Italian wines, pastas and olives. As the evening drew on it got busier and busier with a mixed crowd of city workers, couples and girls out for drinks; it’s really a great casual place for any situation.

My starter was grilled calamari with pappa al pomodoro, a thick Tuscan soup made from tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic and basil. I loved the smoked chargrilled taste of the calamari that was cooked perfectly so it wasn’t chewy or tough. The accompanying soupy sauce was the perfect pairing as it was slightly spicy but didn’t overpower the delicate taste of the calamari. I even loved the earthy china which reflected the rustic style of the Southern Italian cafe.

My friend chose one of the daily specials, a grilled octopus dish with Tuscan beans and tomatoes. Once again the mollusc was prepared to perfection, I think octopus can go so horribly wrong when it’s not. Both dishes were a large portion size and actually would have been fine for a main course too.

It’s hardly surprising the food tastes so good and authentic, the head chef of L’Anima is Sardinian-born Antonio Favuzzi (known as Lello) who as a youngster learnt to cook in his parents kitchen. He trained in top Italian kitchens before coming to London in 2003 and opening L’Anima in 2008, L’Anima Cafe following in 2014. Previously Lello’s number two at L’Anima, Luca Terrano is head chef of L’Anima Cafe.

My main course was salmon baked in paper with olives and fennel, the ‘cartoccio’ method of cooking meant the salmon was beautifully infused with the flavour of the herbs. I’m dreaming of visiting Positano soon and the delicious zest of Amalfi lemon used in this dish only further fuelled my wanderlust.

 

My friend chose the small portion of Spaghetti Vongole, but even her starter size was huge…actually the couple next to us ordered pizzas and they were equally sizeable. Definitely come to L’Anima Cafe feeling hungry…that’s fine for me I’m always hungry ;). My friend’s request for gluten-free pasta was met with ease and I loved the fact that the pasta had the authentic ‘bite’ typically found in Italy. Both main courses were covered in a good slug of oil that was delicious and fragrant. Note that they don’t do a gluten free version of the pizza though.

 

And aubergine caponata and a tomato salad were our delicious and well-seasoned side dishes.

We felt very well looked after by the wonderful staff of Italian waiters at L’Anima Cafe whose personable attitudes give the place an intimate family run feel as opposed to a large city-based restaurant. I kept getting little top ups of prosecco and the waiters had big smiles on their faces. Best of all the even the chef came out to have a quick chat to us during the busy service.

By now I’d clearly lost the battle again will power and being remotely healthy, and I figured if I was going to unhealthy, we might as well order all the dessert…I don’t do things by halves…

Who can resist the lure of a chocolate pudding after all?
And you may have noticed that I have a thing for Tiramisu at the moment!

 

A half peach topped with a layer of biscuit and ice-cream and lavender was my favourite: I loved the honied flavour of the fresh peach and the contrasting texture of the ice cream and biscuit.

 

I chose the melon soup with mint ice cream as a last ditch attempt to be healthy and though it was refreshing it was probably my least favourite of the night being a little bland in comparison to the big flavours of the other dishes.

The motto at L’Anima cafe is Fatto Qui meaning ‘made here’, a philosophy that sums up the service and food at L’Anima, it’s home-made, from heart and with plenty of soul.

L’Anima Cafe
10 Appold Street
London
EC2A 2AP

020 7422 7080

My epic feast at L’Anima was complimentary¬†
Square Meal

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