In 2012, the owners of the South Place Hotel - a mere five-minute walk from Liverpool Street Station - had a rather good idea. They decided to open a chic, sophisticated fish restaurant on the hotel's 7th floor and shake up London's rather drab seafood dining scene (J Sheekey aside). My first visit was in October 2012 – literally deserted, I was still won over by Angler's exquisite seafood, gracious service and glass-fronted dining room.
Six years later, it appears little has changed. The views are just as spectacular, and staff remain lively and affable. In 2012 however, the waiters had time to linger; now they dash. The secret is most definitely out – Angler's elongated, modern dining room was packed to the rafters during our lunchtime visit, with a diverse crowd of couples, suits and tourists.
We order Dorset crab with an avocado and wasabi dressing, which despite being a relatively simple choice, transpired to be one of the loveliest things I’ve eaten in months. The shredded crab meat was rich, pungent and moreish, while the wasabi dressing suitably zesty. It was everything my glass of sauvignon blanc wanted – generously seasoned, bursting with flavour and the epitome of thoughtful, accomplished cooking.
The starring parts of our lunch invoked Gordon Ramsay's famous observation that: “There's nowhere to hide with fish. Casseroles are forgiving, whereas fish can be ruined in a manner of seconds.” It's a lesson that head chef Gary Foulkes clearly doesn't need to learn – Cornish brill was perfectly cooked; a medley of moist, delicious fish atop a bed of “carbonara” onions. Even better was my companion's roast Newlyn cod. The waiter suggested we try the rice pudding souffle and warm malt tart, both of which were rich, decadent and yet not overly cloying; more importantly, there was none of that faddy, deconstructed rubbish – just proper puds, prepared with flair and imagination.
Angler is definitely one of London's pricier seafood venues but the food, service and atmosphere are all superb, not to mention an expertly curated wine list, full of more esoteric varieties in addition to the old favourites. And so despite an increasing amount of fishy competition in London, Angler still manages to come out on top.
Angler, South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, London EC2M 2AF; 020 3215 1260; anglerrestaurant.com