Although it might seem like our life is all parties, even we have to work sometimes. Finding ourselves with meetings in The City on the same day, Monsieur 2 asked his P.A. - we couldn’t live without her - to find us a hotel near the Square Mile with a bit of character. She’s booked us into The Fox & Anchor, a ‘pub with rooms’ opposite Smithfield Market.
As we arrive, first impressions aren’t particularly welcoming - it’s a pub alright, and on this warm evening suited City drinkers are spilling onto the pavement outside. There’s a door to one side marked ‘Hotel’ but finding it locked, we have to elbow our way through the drinkers to the bar to enquire where to check in. The answer is: right there, so while the guy next to us orders two pints of lager and a packet of crisps, we’re filling out the registration card. It feels rather awkward.
As we’re taken upstairs, impressions don’t improve much; the staircase is dark and dingy and the carpet's fraying, not at all in keeping with the pub itself which from what we saw looked well-maintained. It’s not the end of the world but little things do matter!
We’re shown into our room, the Charterhouse. The bed looks large and comfy - always a plus - and we clock a Bose sound system, but otherwise it’s pretty basic. The furniture’s standard hotel stuff - not in keeping with the old world feel of the leaded windows, which on closer inspection are dirty - and the paint on the door is chipped. It’s fine, but basic, and doesn’t feel as luxurious as the very slick website had led us to expect. The bathroom’s better though, with an attractive roll-top tub and a drench shower, two of our favourite things. There's also a good selection of generous-sized products from Miller Harris, which we love.
We decide a cup of tea’s in order and search high and low for the tea tray; eventually we find it - bizarrely hidden away in the bottom of the wardrobe.
At least once tea’s made there’s a nice chaise longue at the end of the bed for us to sit and sip it on. We love a chaise longue.
Supper time, so we go down to the pub and take a table in a charming, wood-panelled back room. The menu is robustly British with some modern touches; Monsieur 2 sums it up as ‘pub grub deluxe’ and he’s spot on.
We both go for fish starters, potted smoked mackerel for me, terrine of Scottish smoked salmon for him. He’s sure it’s the same Gary Rhodes recipe that’s his staple dinner party starter, and from the looks of it he’s right - no bad thing, as it’s delicious, as is my mackerel.
Monsieur 2’s salad from the daily specials - chicken and peppers with mixed leaves - is fine but nothing, well, special. I do better with mutton t-bones and spring vegetable broth; the meat has fantastic depth of flavour, and the replacement broth the chef kindly whips up when I spot the dreaded celery in the first version is absolutely wonderful. For puds, we enjoy some British cheeses and ice cream-filled profiteroles. A bottle of Pinot Grigio rosé from the pub’s owner’s own English vineyard is a lovely unusual drop.
Food finished, we should probably head for bed, but can’t resist popping round the corner for a nightcap at The Zetter Townhouse...
Ooops, naughty Messieurs; we went for one and stayed for a couple. Now it’s time for bed; and as we're in Smithfields, we fall asleep to the rhythmic hum of the lorries delivering their meaty wares to Smithfields market across the road.
After a rain shower over our plush bath, a spot of breakfast is in order before we head off. The menu’s very ‘blokey’, as are the customers at this time of day - City boys (and indeed, a few girls) having power meetings, looking like teams from The Apprentice planning a challenge. We feel a bit out of place in our morning casuals but our waitress is super-friendly (as too was our waitress at dinner last night) and quickly brings the coffee we need to get started.
We decide against the awesome-sounding City Boy breakfast - basically all the meat you can eat, with a pint of stout on the side - and instead devour steak and eggs with good crispy hash browns.
As we check out - if you can call handing a key back across the bar ‘checking out’ - and leave The Fox & Anchor, our lasting impression is of a place with good intentions, and great food, but which doesn’t quite gel as a whole. It is a pub with rooms, and a perfectly nice one, but it could up its ante by focusing on the finer details, and even unlocking the door marked 'Hotel' for a separate and more refined entrance for their guests.
N: Fox and Anchor
A: 115 Charterhouse Street, Smithfield, London EC1M 6AA
T: 020 7250 1300 - or to book: 0121 616 3614
Our rating: ***