“ 115 Charterhouse Street,Smithfield, London, EC1M 6AA.Tel: 020 7250 1300 „
At last - a real pub with real ale and real character with really good staff! It never ceases to amaze me how few of these exist - I'm not that hard to please, yet the mix is rarely in evidence.
The Fox and Anchor, however, is one of those pubs that you wished you lived in staggering distance of (apologies for the syntax!) It doesn't look any more impressive than the (many) other pubs near Smithfield Market and I only found it by chance, but what a lucky find!
There are a few small tables outside for smokers' use, and in the eveninig the clientele spill out onto the road. Being a dead end to pretty much nowhere, this really doesn't cause a problem and on a bright summer evening it leads to a pleasantly "buzzy" atmosphere with little of the pretension of a Covent Garden or Upper Street.
On entering the long, cool narrow bar, the unfailingly friendly and helpful staff (who really do understand that they are there to serve the customers and therefore do it with a smile) will warmly greet you. Even on our first visit, we were treated impeccably - that perfect mix of interest and warmth without the processed "How can I help you, sir" so beloved of those who have passed their Customer Service Training Module 1.
There is a plasma screen discreetly mounted on the wall facing a few seats running the length of the bar, but the volume is down and it really does not intrude into a very old school interior. If the Ashes are on there will undoubtedly be about a dozen punters keeping an eye on the action, but this is by no means either a sports or tv pub.
The long bar usually boasts about 6 real ales, and the staff will happily advise as to the best choice, offering a taste if you want it. I have yet to have a bad pint here and the fact that the pints are often served in pewter tankards (with a glass base if you are lucky!) just adds to the olde worlde dickensian feel of the Fox & Anchor.
The food however has no such pretensions - Oliver would not want "more" here! Again unfailingly served by the happiest barstaff I have come across in years (compliments to the charming landlord on finding and retaining his team), a constantly changing menu is on offer - ranging from oysters and pies, through the carvery trolley to a range of delicious daily specials. The choice tends to be on the "posh" side, with slightly alternative elements (samphire, poaced duck eggs etc)but is unfailingly good, if a little pricey. The price, to be fair, is no worse than many other, frankly inferior, establishments in the area.
Seating for food is to the rear of the pub, where there are three small, private booths, the largest seating four or five, the smallest a little nook for two, with a couple of other tables in the open area. Service is polite (as you would by now expect!) prompt and helpful.
In my (now frequent!) visits, I have never been chased from a table once my meal has finished, despite the pressure on dining spaces at busy times. In fact a colleague and I have even left without paying (I don't recommend this!) before returning later, full of apologies! The landlord, Scott, and the duty manager of the day could not have been more understanding and found the whole episode highly amusing.
The Fox & Anchor not only offers great beer, good food, and tremendous service, but also has a six rooms upstairs. These are furnished to a really high standard, again reflected in the price, but in comparison to the dreary chain hotel rooms that compete around the mertroplis, they are a gem of a find. Each room is decorated in a different style, themed around the local attractions and equipped with high quality fixtures and fittings.
I have not stayed but if the rooms reflect the standards shown throughout the rest of the establishment, I would imagine a B&B stay here would be a delight.
The Fox & Anchr is a real gem and a testament to the landlord and his staff - they could easily run courses in how a good pub should be.
Tucked away near Smithfield Market (indeed, near the Smithfield pub), there is a gem of a pub. But shhhh. Don't tell anyone.
I am torn. Part of me dreads writing about the Fox and Anchor, as it's such a wonderful and secret find, I'm afraid to share it, in case it should become inundated. It is a treasure.
I am a bit of a pub aficionado. I love real ale (despite being American) and traditional English atmosphere. The Fox and Anchor serves several real ales in pewter tankards (nice touch), including one of its own. You can buy your beer at the bar or one of the incredibly friendly bar staff (or even what seems to be the world's greatest landlord - a young Irishman who clearly took landlording lessons from a master) will come and serve you with an actual smile. You'll pay around £3.30 for a pint of ale, which is a tadge dear, but not unexpected for the Farringdon area. They serve a variety of ales, including their own (Fox & Anchor, unsurprisingly). They have an ever changing variety of guest ales, and will happily recommend and let you taste the selection.
The food is a bit pricy - I paid just over a tenner for a burger, for example, and a fiver for soup, but it is excellent. It is home made - my burger was requested medium rare, and lo - medium rare it came! Again, the food service is excellent. If you are eating, as you sit down (and there aren't that many seats - it is a narrow pub, with displays of oysters and the carvery cart near the back of the main room, and then a bunch of snug rooms, including the charmingly signed 'Fox's Lare' - that spelling is theirs) you are given some very nice bread with stunningly good butter and a little bowl of salt to start - like I say, classy. My friend had a lamb and pea pie - the crust was freshly cooked, though the filling a wee bit runny (but tasty and obviously freshly cooked).
The Fox and Anchor also does rooms - they have six 'boutique style' rooms, ranging from £95 a night on the weekends to £165 a night on weekdays (and going up). I haven't stayed there, but I did ask the astonishingly friendly landlord if I could have a look, and he happily showed me around several. The rooms, even the smaller ones, are remarkable - one even has a large and deep bath at the end of the bed! The rooms aren't huge (as you might expect, in such an old building), but they are tastefully decorated in a modern, boutique fashion, with recessed halogen lighting, full panoramic pictures (all the rooms are named after areas of London, and the décor reflects this), Bose sound equipment and both baths and 'drench' showers. I'd love a chance to stay there, despite not really having a need to stay in Farringdon.
There is a website http://www.foxandanchor.com/. On it, you can download the food and drinks menu (and they serve breakfast as well), and do a virtual tour of the bedrooms. You cannot book rooms online, but there is a dedicated phone number displayed prominently.
All in all, this pub should be held up to show how good pubs should be. The staff and landlord are amazing, the beer is well kept and immaculately served, and the décor is charming and old world.
A beautifully renovated traditional pub in the heart of Clerkenwell, serving the finest local food and with a suite of six luxury rooms upstairs.