A couple of weeks ago, after wandering around a packed Winter Wonderland that looked exactly the same as every year before this except for the lack of the giant beaver (or small bear who looks like a beaver) at the Bavarian village, and losing my patience with tourists in Knightsbridge and becoming a sardine on the Piccadilly Line with added fault on the line delaying the train, I have reached the depths of Hipsterland, or actually not quite as it was just outside of the City of London, where dragons to this day mark the space of what is the city in a city in a country in a country (sic.).
My destination was the Viking rooftop bar at the Queen of Hoxton, and my companion was basically a viking who showed up in short sleeves and a body warmer while I was already freezing to death and it was no less than 4ºC. As soon as I walked into the building I recognised it as the place where they have the rooftop cinema where I took an old housemate. Two people were playing ping pong and it looked like an innocuous Silicon Valley-office style place. I remember finding something funny about the ladies’ room downstairs but I can’t remember what. Anyway, after a flight of stairs that seemed never-ending although masterfully decorated with a Nordic theme we arrived at the full up (on a Monday evening around 7pm!) bar. There is a list of themed cocktails and food. I went for the safe option of a cider while my friend dove deep into the theme with some Gunner’s goulash and a hot drink named Thor’s Courage. I tried the latter and was unimpressed: it tasted like the water leftover by cooking apples when I need a quick fibre fix, and was a small quantity. We were lucky to have to wait very little before we could get a seat by the fire, which was very nice except that it doesn’t foster equal distribution of heat in your body, it will eventually kill your eyes with the smoke and you will smell like it for days no matter how many showers you take. It was very instagrammable, though, and that made me very happy.
Once we have had enough of crying because of the smoke we have made our way next door to L’Anima Café, an Italian bar and restaurant that is mostly famous for their (now gone) aperitivo. The music was horrible and the décor was the kind of geometric minimalism I greatly dislike, but both reminded me of Italy because I think pretty much every bar over there looks like that. It’s not a compliment in my book but at least you can say that it nails the atmosphere. We had a traditional and a variant of a traditional drink but unlike in Italy they did not come with the staples of complimentary bar food: crisps, olives and peanuts. Given the strength of the cocktails (negronis) that would have been quite nice, however I have lived this side of the Channel long enough I have grown accustomed to drinking on an empty stomach and have said fare thee well to my liver ca Party Conference 2015. The menu is a proper southern Italian menu (and no, I don’t care I am as northerner as it gets, I have a cousin near Naples I have visited once, and my late grandfather I have never met owned a restaurant there, so I am an authority on the subject), although not coeliac and whatever other reason one is on a gluten-free diet friendly, and everything is fresh and made in-house (as Italians do). If you’re in the City, want food near the office and want that food to be reasonably priced but high quality then definitely go for it, I’m willing to bet it tastes as good as it looks (it’s a very popular place after all, and the people there were -you guessed- mostly Italians). The only downside is it closes quite early on weekdays.
I knowingly have a dislike for the area (I’m still scarred by having brunch at the Hoi Polloi and will probably be so forever…) as I have for the kind of people who populate it, Boxpark and generally most things because I am a snob with little chance of redemption, but I’d take the change to pop by the Viking Bar before it closes in March just for the experience of a drink by the fire overlooking a poor employee of a big financial company working the night away (still there when we left), and if in the area I’d definitely make L’Anima a regular trip, especially if you fall into one of these categories: a) you need a strong drink because you actually work in the City and that means your life is horrible (my sympathy) b) you’re Italian stuck in London, you may not hate the place (or maybe you do) but you miss home c) you’re one of those people who react to being told my parents live near Lake Como with something about how much you loved your holidays in Italy OR how much you wish you had ever gone on holiday to Italy. Being in the middle of a financial hub is basically giving you the Milan experience, not as great as eating piadina by the sea with great inexpensive wine bought directly from the winery in Romagna but definitely like an Italian holiday.