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Toby Young
Friday 20th June 2003

Anglesea Arms

ES Magazine - 20th June 2003

A few weeks ago I wrote a eulogy to Halepi, a Greek-Cypriot place in Bayswater, and said how much I wished Shepherd's Bush had a little neighbourhood restaurant of the same quality. Since then I've been deluged with letters from local residents, urging me to try such-and-such a place which, in their humble opinion, is "the dog's bollocks". (That phrase was used so often I'm surprised there isn't a restaurant in the area actually called the dog's bollocks.) Among the contenders for this honorarium are the Adam's Café on the Askew Road, the Rajput on the Goldhawk Road and Azou on King Street. I certainly intend to try all of these in the near future.

The restaurant that nearly every letter-writer named as the best in the area was the Anglesea Arms, a place I actually know quite well. Technically speaking, "restaurant" may not be strictly accurate since it's really a gastropub, but the food is of such a high standard it seems churlish to bracket it with the Eagle on Farringdon Road and the Gate on St John's Street. The owner, Dan Evans, is a gifted chef who trained under Alastair Little and the modern British cuisine on offer is almost as good as that served up in Mr Little's two establishments. The only pub I've been to in Britain that can rival this watering hole when it comes to food is the Tickell Arms in Whittlesford.

So why did I overlook the Anglesea when I lamented the absence of a really good neighbourhood restaurant in Shepherd's Bush? The answer is that it simply takes too long to eat a meal there.

To begin with, they don't take reservations. It's first come, first serve, and on a Saturday lunchtime that can mean twiddling your thumbs for up to two hours. This wouldn't be so bad if the waiters were a little bit more apologetic, but they have a habit of behaving as if this Victorian pub is in possession of three Michelin stars. On one occasion, my wife was told she'd be seated "within an hour" and, when she still hadn't been given a table after ninety minutes, had the temerity to complain. "I don't think you understand," said the pony-tailed pratt, raising himself to his full height. "In the Anglesea, we don't recognise the concept of time." As someone who's been refused a pint at 10.31pm on a Sunday, I can testify that this isn't true.

Even if you're lucky enough to get a table--and don't forget to tug your forelock as you're seated--the misery isn't over. When I went there last week I had to wait 45 minutes between my starter and main course. Not very impressive considering it was a Tuesday lunchtime and there were less than a dozen people eating. Okay, the toasted fillet of turbot with lardoons and pea puree was pretty good and the large warm salad of chicken livers, new potatoes, green beans and croutons was as tasty as always, but was it worth the wait?

Until recently, I'd hear occasional reports of Nigella sightings at the Anglesea, an additional reason to go there. Nigella is the only A-list celebrity in Shepherd's Bush--or, rather, she used to be. She upped chopsticks and moved to Belgravia earlier this year and since then the only people who go to the Anglesea are the sort of snobs who refer to the surrounding streets as "Brackenbury Village". Yeah, right. How many villages have armed drug dealers prowling the local green? When people say Shepherd's Bush has come up in the world they mean that you can now buy cocaine and heroin on the Goldhawk Road, in addition to crack.

If the sole criterion of the perfect neighbourhood restaurant is the quality of the food, the Anglesea would certainly qualify. However, I'm looking for a place I can be in and out of in under an hour and on that score the Anglesea falls down. I'm afraid my search for the ultimate dog's bollocks continues.

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