Angler is the flagship restaurant of the South Place Hotel near Moorgate, and opened in September 2012. The hotel is modern and has 80 rooms but no less than five bars, so clearly has its priorities right. The Angler is on the seventth (top) floor of the hotel and, not surprisingly given its name, emphasises fish. Chef Tony Fleming was previously head chef at Axis from 2007 until he came here, and at The Great Eastern Hotel for five years prior to that. His cooking is classical and the menu reflects that, with lots of appealing choices and no sea buckthorn in sight. The dining room is in an L shape seating 60 diners, with an outside terrace bar at one end, and enclosed wine fridges along one side of the room. The carpeted floors meant that noise levels were moderate, despite the muzak playing. Tables were generously spaced, with carefully ironed white linen tablecloths. In addition to the á la carte there was a three course, £30 menu with more limited choice that, naturally enough, featured less luxurious ingredients. Starters ranged from £8.50 to £14.50, main courses £16.50 to £36, vegetables at £3.75 and desserts mostly £6.50.
The wine list stretched to well over 150 choices, ranging in price from £18 to £680, with a median price of £68.50, and an average mark-up of around three times the retail price, which is normal for London. Examples were Domaine Becassonne 2010 at £34 for a wine that will cost you £12 in shop, Trimbach Riesling Réserve Ribeauvillé 2009 at £52 or a wine that goes for £18 in the high street, and Chardonnay Kistler 'Les Noisetiers' 2008 at a hefty £202 for a wine you can find for around £75 retail. We drank the excellent J.J. Prum Gracher Himmelrech Spatlese 2008 at £88 for a wine that retails at £26. Mineral water was £4 a bottle. Bread was supplied by the Bread Factory, slices of white bread that were served warm. Although this was bought-in bread it nonetheless had very good texture, the Bread Factory being one of the better bakers supplying London restaurants (16/20).
As we arrived a pair of little cheese shortbread biscuits were presented as a nibble; these were made using Mrs Montgomery cheddar and had excellent texture (16/20). A shellfish velouté was poured over a little crab, coriander and red pepper. The soup had deep shellfish flavour, with lobster evident in the taste, carefully seasoned and designed so that there was a little acidity. To make really good soup like this you need to use a lot of (expensive) shellfish, and the flavour really came through well – 16/20 is probably a mean score for this.
A seafood cocktail showed similar generosity with luxury ingredients. This is such a simple and familiar dish, but there are very few versions you will encounter which, like this, had carefully cooked langoustines and lobster as well as shrimp, with good quality salad leaves and a well-judged cocktail sauce with a nice peppery kick (16/20). Also good was a scallop and lobster raviolo in a butter sauce with samphire. The pasta had soft texture and the shellfish was again of good quality, but this was the one dish of the meal that seemed a little under-seasoned, needing a little more flavour punch (still 15/20).
Halibut with heritage potatoes shaped into cylinders was served with watercress. The halibut was precisely timed, the potatoes good, a little fish sauce served to one side. This was a good dish, though in this case the seasoning was a touch on the salty side (15/20). I preferred my Denham Estate venison, whose loin was served on a bed of cep casserole and creamed butternut squash. The venison had unusually good flavour, even if it is hard to get butternut squash to be overly exciting. However the best element was a little cottage pie of confit of the venison shoulder served on the side. This had really intense flavour, balanced by its potato topping, and was absolutely superb (17/20 overall for this dish, but the cottage pie was special). Vegetables were generally good, with nicely made triple cooked chips, capable cream of Savoy cabbage, though some black cabbage was a touch under-cooked.
Milk chocolate ice cream was served with passion fruit and toasted coconut, the exotic fruits nicely balancing the ice cream (15/20). Lemon tart was classy, featuring very well made pastry and a pleasingly runny and well-balanced filling with just the right level of lemon. This was served with lemon ice cream on a bed of shortbread biscuit crumbs (easily 16/20). Coffee (£3.50) was good rather than great, a little on the bitter side to my taste. It was served with good lemon madeleines that had plenty of lemon flavour but were just fractionally too firm in texture, and very good, rich caramel truffles.
The bill came to £119 a head, albeit with a good bottle of wine and a glass of dessert wine. With a modest wine a meal from the á la carte would have come to around £80 a head, and of course there was the £30 menu as well. Service was very carefully drilled, the staff topping up water and wine attentively, the waiters able to answer questions about the dishes without rushing off to the kitchen to check. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this meal, which demonstrated a high level of technical skill throughout, and which featured good quality ingredients and well constructed dishes. It is just the kind of food that I like, and a pleasant antidote to the current London trend towards overuse of unusual foraged ingredients in frequently bizarre combinations, plates artfully decorated with micro leaves and edible flowers to make them look pretty in photographs, but with scant regard to flavour. At Angler you just get appealing dishes with high quality ingredients and time-consuming, skilful cooking. This comes at a somewhat high price perhaps, but all those chefs in the kitchen and the expensive seafood have to be paid for. The smaller scale of the dining room here compared to Mr Fleming’s previous venue allows him to be more focused, and it shows. I will be very happy to return.
@lancehirsh @FineDiningExp @Browns_Hotel The hotel didn't renew the contract. Apparently, they wanted something more "rustic".