115 Charterhouse Street, London, EC1M 6AA www.foxandanchor.com
The Fox and Anchor’s Big Breakfast is a throwback to the days when the meat porters of Smithfield, large men with even larger appetites, would finish work around 8 a.m. and go in search of what, for them, was effectively lunch. Having burnt thousands of calories humping dead animals around since long before dawn, they were in search of meat and beer, noisy company and a few laughs.
At the same time, and this was before the days of standardised all-night clubbing, also propping up the bar would be a mix of old-style night owls who hadn’t been to bed, printers from Fleet Street coming off shift (my dad amongst them) and, latterly, City men on their way to get onto the early markets.
Today the meat market is a less characterful place. The old butchers that surrounded it have mostly been turned into coffee shops and restaurants and the old, seedy, buzz has sadly departed. The Fox and Anchor though has fought back. The décor is still classic London pub, even the ceiling is anaglypta and it feels wonderfully warm and cosy; all that’s missing is the glorious fug of cigarette smoke that always made London pubs so atmospheric. And if some of that atmosphere gave the non-smoking drinkers secondary cancer, which it probably never actually did, it was a small price to pay.
Already with quite a name for their lunch menu, the boys at the Fox and Anchor have come up with a name for their special breakfast – The City Big Boy Breakfast. On the menu is, deep breath, Sweet cured bacon, Pork and Leek sausage, Eggs (any style), Grilled tomato, White and Black pudding, Hash Browns, Minute Steak, Lambs’ Kidneys, Baked Beans, Fried Bread, Chicken Liver and Mushrooms. Oh and a pint of stout.
Now I don’t mind admitting I was dubious. I expected a pile of artery-clogging rubbish. The napkin was a clue that things were going to be good though, a little designery touch that promised something special. So too did the fact that the butter came in a wrap of paper and from Cornwall.
In fact it was superb. The quality of ingredients was outstanding – the kidneys plump and delicious, the fried bread crisp and not greasy, the minute steak perfect, the black pudding lovely. I didn’t have baked beans, they have no place in a proper British Breakfast, although I hear they are popular on the Costas in bars that fly Union Jacks.
I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a plate of food so much in ages and washing it down with a pint of cold stout made it even better. Cooking was spot on, poached eggs that were perfectly spherical and just soft inside, and the liver was stand out.
I didn’t eat again that day or that evening, which makes it a pretty good value meal as well as being a delicious one.
If you’re a local worker or a tourist looking for an early start, great food, a piece of history and enough grub to fuel you for a day and beyond, then the Fox & Anchor has just what you’re looking for. They even have beds.