A traditional pub in the heart of The City with an old English feel, proper British grub, real ale and fine whisky. The Fox and Anchor is one of many gastro pubs on Charterhouse Street, but there may be none with as much vintage charm.
The slim, pale brick building is only moments from Barbican, Farringdon or Chancery Lane stations. Entering through wooden double doors with glass panels etched with the bar’s name, you edge into a thin and busy room. The bar top is silver all the way along and pewter beer jugs hang from wooden shelving perched atop. Behind the bar, ornate shelves display an array of spirits and beers. Facing the bar is a long green leather bench with high leather back, and in front is a handful of square, dark wood tables and single leather chairs.
At the end of the bar an ice-filled tray displays some seafood; oysters and shrimps between halved lemons.
Like a fox’s den, the back of the room past the bar is a series of cubbyholes containing tables and chairs for groups and more private dining. It’s best to book ahead, but staff are more than accommodating if you haven’t. Dark wooden panelling on the walls, concertina doors with glass insets, gold gilded mirrors and pictures in frames all add character and classic charm. The busy detailing make the small sections feel even less spacious, adding to its cosy appeal, but occasional large mirrors prevent you from feeling too closed-in.
Located along the same street as Fabric nightclub, this place attracts a completely different crowd – City workers on lunches and locals who don’t mind paying extra for the privilege of well prepared food. The number of people squeezed inside increases the cosy feeling. Most tables are full with diners, with a few perching on bar stools and filling the cubbyholes with conversations. Low-level music is played and classics by The Beatles can be made out among other popular oldies.
Starters range from £4.95 for soup up to £7.25 for duck and prune terrine. Crispy tiger prawns, Scotch egg, Stilton salad or deep fried pigs head bolster the line-up. Mains like pan fried salmon with lobster mash and Champagne hollandaise (£15.25) make this pub menu stand out from the norm, but traditional fish, chips and mushy peas (£14.50), bring it back down to earth. The addition of Cornish pasty with peas and gravy (£10.50) and English lamb with crushed carrot and swede and minted gravy (£15.50) also add some English charm. The lamb rump is carved in thick circles and cooked slightly pink and tender, the crushed carrot and swede a nice accompaniment and the minted gravy a perfect topping, although you will need to add another side for £3.95 if you hope to not leave hungry. Scotch rib-eye steak with goose fat chips comes on a wooden slab with a side of peppercorn sauce and mushroom (£15.50). The portion is a little small but steak is cooked as requested and chips are particularly tasty. Another draw is the range of Fox’s pies (£14.95), including steak and ale, chicken and ham, fish and cottage.
Desserts also remain traditional; apple and cinnamon crumble with custard is the top pick (£5.95) and comes served on a wooden slab in a pewter, chalice-style dessert dish with similar pewter jug full of custard to pour as you desire. The apple is sharp and the crumble extra sweet. Other options of marmalade sponge, dark chocolate cake or knickerbocker glory are tempting (£5.95), or an English cheese board (£6.50) is available.
Bar snacks include pork scratchings, pickled eggs and cockles and there are mid-week lunch deals for £12.95, including a beer. There’s also a morning menu for the City workers, including the full monty (£8.95) or the City Boy (£16.95) with the addition of hash browns, minute steak, white pudding and calves liver. Smaller breakfasts include porridge or eggs and soldiers (£3.95).
Real ales are available on rotation, so ask a member of staff what’s on. Camden town lager is £4.10 a pint, cider £4.50 and bottled beers start from £4.25. Wines are arranged under original headings including ‘for Wenches, Robin Hoods, Dudes and Dandies – fruit driven and aromatic’ and other similarly poetic descriptions, ending with dessert wines ‘for Sweethearts and Sugar Daddies’. There are also some top of the range wines ‘for Connoisseurs, Celebrations and Conquerors’ from £40.75 for a white Gruner Veltliner 2007 up to £102.45 for a red Odyssey Cabernet sauvignon 2005. And of course, bubbly is listed ‘for Rappers, Starlets and the Elegant’.
Whiskies are also in abundance and aimed at those in the know, with prices from £2.80 for a J&B Rare to £15.95 for a Macmillan 21 year old and £23.60 for a Glenmorangie Margaux Cask Finish – and no, that’s not for the bottle!
The Last Word
A traditional old City pub with fine grub, hospitable staff and a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Food options can add up in the price stakes, but on the whole The Fox and Anchor puts on a pleasing atmosphere to enjoy some good company.