Stay the night: Fox & Anchor, Smithfield, London
Sunday 07 December 2008
Hearty Smithfield breakfasts of the offal and ale variety have long been a staple of the Fox & Anchor, watering hole of choice for hard-grafting meat porters, hard-partying Londoners and anyone else in search of a carb fix at dawn.
Now this famous Victorian inn has been beautifully re-invented as part gastropub, part boutique hotel. The quality and attention to detail almost evoke a "Disney does Dickensian London" feel, but the experience is infinitely more satisfying for being authentic and styled by the people behind the luxury Malmaison hotel brand. Even the Fox's ebullient Irish landlord Scott Malaugh is a 21st-century version of a character from the pages of Dickens.
Let yourself in from the street to feel like a local or fall up the stairs from the heaving pub after an indulgent night in one of the cosy candlelit snugs at the back of this historic tavern, where real ale is served in pewter tankards and they make their own pork scratchings. You can sip fine wine and nibble a salad as well, though.
The Hops & Chops, Cuvées & Duvets experience is brought to you by the Cunning Plan Pub Company; such a good idea it must be destined to come to a town near you soon.
As the blurb says, rooms above a pub have never been like this. Five interior-designed air-conditioned rooms and one suite with large decked terrace have burnished copper basins, free-standing roll-top baths and drench showers. The toiletries are Miller Harris; the sound system is Bose, and headboards featuring a stunning photograph of the local scene after which each room is named – St Bart's, St Paul's, Charterhouse – lord it over the sumptuous beds. Plasma screens, DVD players and mood lighting complete the luxury take on a pub stay.
The food and drink
Style and substance are the hallmarks here. The cutlery comes wrapped in a tea towel, welcome protection as you relish Carlingford Bay oysters (£2), goose fat chips (£3) or a juicy roast (£14.95). A potted pig's head and piccalilli starter (£5.95) is presented on a board in Kilner jars, and lamb shank pie (£11.95) comes with the bone sticking out of the crisp, buttery pastry. It was the best pie I've eaten, and the accompanying carrots looked and tasted as if they'd just been pulled from the allotment.
The pub is on the level but all the rooms are accessed via steep, narrow stairs. Children welcome.
Pay from £109 for a double room. A full English breakfast costs £8.95.
Fox & Anchor, 115 Charterhouse Street, London EC1M 6AA (020-7250 1300, foxandanchor.com )
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