L’Anima (meaning soul) is a smart City Italian restaurant near the Broadgate centre. The room is airy and minimalist, with white leather upholstery, marble floors, picture windows and exposed brick along one wall. The marble floor makes for a noisy room when the restaurant is busy, which seems to be most of the time. The wine list, currently with 95 choices and due to expand soon, was mostly Italian, with an emphasis on small boutique producers. Mark-ups were not excessive by London standards. Isole e Olena 2005 was £75 for a wine that you can buy in the shops for around £28, Brunello di Montalcino Il Paradiso 2001 was listed at £90 for a wine that retails for around £40. Petaluma Viognier 2005 was £55 against a retail price of around £17. The list started at £17 a bottle. Bread, including sourdough and foccacia, was made daily in the kitchen from scratch in the wood-fired over (15/20).
A nibble of deep-fried courgette flowers stuffed with vegetables was a little greasy but nicely seasoned and tasty, and generous in size (14/20). A starter of spaghetti tomato and basil was an object lesson in pasta, with lovely texture, just a hint of basil and good seasoning (16/20). About the only thing that could improve this would be higher quality tomatoes, but the restaurant uses local suppliers for all its produce rather than importing tomatoes (for example) from Italy. Clams and mussels cooked on the charcoal grill (£7) are in their shells, resting in a peppery broth. The clams were very fresh but the broth was extremely peppery; I am a fan of robust seasoning but this was excessive (13/20).
Slow roast black pig pork belly (£14) was excellent, with lovely crackling and nicely cooked carrots and a bed of smooth mash (16/20). Organic salmon from the Shetlands (£13) was cooked on the charcoal grill, giving a nice hint of smokiness, the salmon surprisingly tasty for a farmed fish, served with a simple but nicely dressed mixed leaf salad.
For dessert, a rhubarb tart was very good, but the rhubarb sorbet (£6) with it oddly tasteless given how distinctive a taste rhubarb has (14/20). Better was “mangia e bevi” (a meaningless menu name, since this just means “eat and drink”). This was in fact strawberry jelly with strawberry ice cream (£7.50), and assorted fruits, with a little passion fruit pulp. This worked very well, having a refreshing taste that was very appropriate to this warm summer day. Coffee was good, served with pleasant chocolate truffles. Service was very good throughout the meal. Overall this is a most impressive addition to the capital’s array of Italian restaurants.