I was invited to stay at The Fox & Anchor pub/hotel in Clerkenwell recently so on Friday, my boyfriend and I packed our bags and headed to this city boozer come boutique hotel for a meal, followed by an overnight stay.
We arrived at the pub at 6.30pm and leaned over the bar to let the staff know that we had a room booked. They grabbed the key and told us how to get to our room. We wrestled past the Friday night city punters enjoying their end of the working week drinks and unlocked the door to walk upstairs.
Our key told us that we were staying in ‘St. Bart’s’, which actually stands for St Bartholomew’s – one of London’s oldest churches. All six rooms above the Fox & Anchor pub have a name, rather than a number and we had the pleasure of being surrounded by Smithfield, Charterhouse, St Paul’s, Barbican and The Market Suite.
I believe that all rooms are pretty similar, each comes with a king sized bed (with a picture relating to the room name as the headboard), a plasma screen TV and state of the art Bose sound system with a comfortable sofa to watch it on, a fabulous bathroom with a stand alone bath, copper sink and drench shower.
It was the bathroom that I found most impressive. Beautiful floor tiles, a stand alone bath I could only wish for, a marvelous copper sink and THAT shower. But vegetarians should watch out – there are images of butchers holding carcasses looking out at you whilst you enjoy a relaxing bath.
The attention to detail in the room is great – an anchor toilet chain and door knocker. A sign on the back of the door saying ‘gone to the pub’ amused me and it’s nice to see the effort that has gone into making a comfortable stay but with gentle reminders that you’re really above an extremely busy old London pub. In fact, The Fox & Anchor has been trading since the Victorian era and despite being renovated in 2008, the pub has retained the cozy, English pub atmosphere with dark wood paneling and open fire place.
We went downstairs for dinner at 7pm and were seated in our own little booth towards the back of the pub, which was romantic. The tag line on the menu ‘Hops, Chops, Cuvees & Duvees’ immediately put a smile on my face, as did the range of food options below it. Of course, being in a pub, there is also a range of beers and ales on offer so my boyfriend sampled a couple of these and I loved the metal tankard that they came in.
I wouldn’t go to The Fox & Anchor for a fine dining experience. The menu is a range of simple fuss free classics but cooked well. I wouldn’t say it is the best meal I’ve ever had but maybe that’s because I am spoiled for choice in London. Saying that, it was very good as far as pub grub goes.
I was intrigued to see Oysters on the menu. There are two types available, molden rock and native so I ordered one of each. The native was absolutely delicious – I’d even go so far as saying that it might be one of the best oysters I’ve ever had!
To start I opted for the maldon smoked fish board & 100% rye bread. There were three types of smoked fish on the wooden board that arrived at the table – smoked salmon, smoked poached flaky salmon and smoked oysters. I particularly enjoyed the metal gravy boat of pickled cucumber to accompany the fish. The rye bread was delicious and very thinly sliced, which was a good thing because had it have been thicker, it may have spoiled the next course.
My boyfriend opted for the Welsh rarebit to start. We share our dishes the majority of the time but I was a bit anxious about this as I am not a huge fan of mustard and last time I had this dish, I was sadly disappointed. However, the Fox & Anchor version is a creamy, cheesy, sour (from the Worscester sauce) delight.
I cast my eye down the menu to see the mains and in hindsight should have gone for either sausage & mash or one of the foxs’ pies, we were in a pub after all. I opted for the burger, which was in no way a bad choice but slightly full on. I could only just get my chops around it, it was that big! I asked for the burger medium rare and that is how it came. I was also happy to see a big slice of bacon on the top, plus a layer of melted cheese. Delicious. The only part of the burger that I wasn’t so keen on was the slightly ‘dusty’ bun.
My boyfriend went for the salmon & cod fishcake, spinach, poached egg & hollandaise. It was the latter part of the dish that enticed him – his words were ‘I’m a sucker for a poached egg’. It was good, although slightly under seasoned. The poached egg was cooked perfectly and the yolk quickly ran down the fishcake once cut open.
The burger came with goose fat chips and my boyfriend ordered a side of them as well. We didn’t realise that the portions would be so large, otherwise we wouldn’t have ordered the extra portion. Sadly, we weren’t able to finish them but they were nice and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
We both felt extremely full following our main course but I did not let that deter me. I perused the dessert menu and opted for the apple & blackberry crumble with Fox & Anchor homemade vanilla ice cream. My boyfriend was too full so went for one scoop of the homemade chocolate ice cream.
I was happy to see that the portion wasn’t too large and I ate it quickly. The apple and blackberry was a puree at the bottom, topped with crunchy crumble topping and a scoop of silky vanilla ice cream.
The service throughout the evening was faultless, the waitress that served us was an absolute delight and despite the meal being complimentary, we still left a tip.
We had a couple of drinks each during the meal and then topped it off with a strong and delicious espresso. We were finished by 9pm so decided to venture out for another few drinks in the area. We stepped inside Smith’s of Smithfield but were quickly deterred by the drunken men in suits dancing to Nelly and Justin Timberlake. So we walked around the corner to Hix Oyster & Chop House where we enjoyed a couple of delicious cocktails at the bar.
We arrived back at the hotel at midnight and fell into the huge luxurious king sized bed. Now this is the only negative part of the stay – the music from the bar across the road was so loud that we could hear everything, words and all until 4am. We awoke at 8.30am and it’s a good job because 15 minutes later, the two men in high vis jackets across the road started up their drills and started digging! The noise was not at all the fault of the Fox & Anchor and I have been assured that the management will be looking into it.
I was happy to hear that breakfast was served from 7 – 11am, which is perfect for those who aren’t keen on getting up early at the weekend. I enjoyed a quick bubble bath before heading down to the breakfast table. It was slightly surreal sitting in an almost empty pub that was so busy, boozy and bustling the night before. I still felt full from the enormous dinner so went for a bacon butty. There were more substantial options including full English, grilled kippers and eggs benedict. There was also a whopping city boy breakfast option for the hungry, which includes… wait for it… sweet cured bacon, pork and leek sausage, eggs, grilled tomato, white & black pudding, hash browns, minute steak, lambs kidneys, baked beans, fried bread, chicken liver, mushrooms PLUS a pint of stout. I’d like to know how many of these get ordered (and finished!)
Breakfasts polished, we handed the key back to the barman and strolled out into the London sunshine. I would be very happy to stay somewhere like this, especially as a tourist visiting London. It gives you the perfect taste of ye olde London – with an extra added bit of luxury.
Fox & Anchor
115 Charterhouse St
City of London
020 7250 1300