Living in London's a laugh. Regardless of who you are, or whatever colour, race, or creed you fall into, typically you can always find something to do in this huge, sprawling metropolis that could pass for a pretty decent night out. If you're skint, though, or at least not rich enough to go really fancy, you find yourself a bit limited in your options if you're after a decent meal.
That's why I - a dirt-poor student from the dodgy bit of Zone 2 - was delighted when I was told to review L'Anima Cafe in Shoreditch (10 Appold St, EC2A 2AP) for a meal that wasn't tinned tuna and microwave rice. Result.
I was welcomed in by the erstwhile maître d' Karlis after opening the door incorrectly, and he proceeded to lead me to a booth at the back, giving me a good chance to spec the whole place out. The décor, I'll be honest, was pure American Psycho - in a good way. From the film projector showing Fellini films on low volume, to the ambient early-noughties electronica setting the tone, it felt completely like Espace, but I can't complain. There's nothing wrong with feeling a little bit like Patrick Bateman now and again.
"I'm on the verge of tears by the time we arrive, since I'm positive we won't have a decent table. But we do, and relief washes over me in an awesome wave..."
Karlis urged me to try one of the restaurant's cocktails, to which I obliged, before asking me a series of cocktail questions to point me towards the best possible drink.
"Sweet or sour?"
"Either, preferably both"
And with that they invented a cocktail for me at the bar, a cocktail that still remains unnamed but is definitively unique. It was really really nice, as well. Like really nice.
An elaborate breads-and-dips trolley was then wheeled over to the table, dispensing about five different types of bread with pots of anchovy dip and 'nduja (a lovely yet staggeringly spicy Italian sausage) for me to get through. I ordered the Calamari alla griglia for my starter and the Pizza Calabrese for my main, as well as a superb bottle of Petit Verdot from Lazio, because if you can't drink nice red wine at a fancy Italian, when can you?
The calamari was great, managing to dodge the common curse of tasting like either a tough plimsole or a jar of warm Vaseline, and the pappa al pomodoro that came with it worked a treat as well. The pizza, however, was another step up, being served as any pizza should be - as one great, stone-baked mass of cheese, chilli and meat. I'll be honest it's as good a pizza as I've ever had, if not better.
By the end of it, I was slumped in a food & wine coma before Karlis somehow managed to convince me to order a dessert. He recommended the Mascarpone Cheesecake, which, again, was a great choice, despite pushing me to the absolute limits of what I thought I was capable of eating in one sitting. If there's one thing I'll take from the experience, it's that Italians love an empty plate, and won't stop until you can eat no more. Fine by me, to be honest.
All in all, L'Anima Cafe was spot on. If you're ever in that trendy Shoreditch and fancy going somewhere nice, go. Trust me, it's dead nice.
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SPECIAL OFFER: Just quote "Sabotage Times" to the people at L'Anima Cafe and you can get a pizza plus a beer or a glass of prosecco for £15. Cool, right?