Canny Annie Hits The Spot!
Right from the get go, I should let you know that the owner of Annie’s, the inimitable Lorraine Angliss, is a friend of mine. She’s a gifted restaurateur which is not surprising, really, since her parents were also in the same business, so it runs in her blood. As far as I’m aware, she owns the two Annie’s as well as Rock and Rose in Richmond (www.rockandroserestaurant.com) but she may well also have her fingers in other pies. Her skill lies in creating an extraordinarily inviting atmosphere in her brasseries and coupling this with an excellent modern British meets Mediterranean culinary concept.
The Annies in Chiswick and in Barnes are both decorated like sumptuous Victorian granny parlours, with thoughtful pretty decorative objects often added to or updated, all quirky and intimate. The restaurant in Barnes, just a few doors down from my house, not only completely feels like being home from home but was, in fact, our little exclave while our own home was having its kitchen replaced some years ago. Some days we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner there and entertained friends too. It has a super cute chandeliered little garden out at the back which is quite heavenly in summer. The tiny Chiswick outlet, sitting on a corner just by the river, is equally pretty and both have a great buzzy neighbourhood vibe. The food is quite typical brasserie style but almost always with an interesting twist and there are daily specials to chose from as well.
Annie’s south of the river we know like the backs of our hands but until recently, we had never eaten in the Chiswick outlet. Then came the day when singer Duffy’s former home, just around the corner from us, collapsed due to an inexpertly executed basement dig out, and the traffic in the entire area came to a standstill. Oh, the price you pay for living shoulder to shoulder with celebrities! They don’t call this area ‘Little Hollywood’ for nothing! In any case, we were due to have supper with a group of friends, so we swiftly moved our rendezvous to Chiswick, on the other side of the river.
All four of these friends, two couples, are serious long-timers. We have known them forever and a day. They were around back when everyone was dating, we went to each others weddings, in my case two, we have toasted our childrens’ heads together, cheered our young on at sports days, exchanged teenage drama stories and are now gently discussing rejuvenation tactics (the women) and get fit regimes (the men). How time flies! One of them, a perennially young looking boy next door type, has just retired, probably on account of the incongruity, from his position as Rear Admiral of a prestigious sailing club. His wife owns, in my view, easily London’s best, most knowledgable optician, Specs of Kensington (www.specsofken.com). The other friend is an expert property developer with a super charismatic socialite wife. Apart from being fun, fizzing and warmhearted, they are a good crowd to know, covering all those bases! Despite their impressive social credentials, they are an unpretentious lot, so we comfortably settled down in the cosy and intimate environment of the Chiswick Annie’s and laughed and guffawed till we could hardly draw breath. In between, we ate. As you do.
While we were all gathering, we kicked off with a good and reliable humous with pitta. Reminiscing about the 70s, three then went for the prawn cocktails while the three others enjoyed tasty goats’ cheese soufflés to start. A decent roasted lamb rump with Dauphinoise potatoes, spinach and roasted garlic was much appreciated , a fresh battered haddock and chips did more than adequately what it said on the tin, so to speak, three steak burgers, variously with or without blue cheese, and with chips, got a vote of confidence and my grilled halloumi burger with aubergine, roasted tomatoes, smoked paprika humous and chips was thoroughly wonderful. Well, and who could resist a suitably squidgy marmalade bread and butter pudding, a rich chocolate brownie with ice cream or a crunchy topped apple and blackberry crumble with custard to finish? Not us! No way!
Here’s the thing: Annie’s irresistibility lies in its incredibly cosy ambience. There are not many restaurants that have quite the same snuggle factor. The food is good, well thought out, unpretentious fare and invariably highly enjoyable if , perhaps, not singularly outstanding. Service too, with few exceptions, is generally very attentive and efficient. It’s the love of detail, the small extra touches that charm every time. We paid around £45 per head, including wine and service charge, so it offers excellent value. Perfect for dates or for gathering in a group, and great for family Sunday lunches, this is a place that you leave with a spring in your step, satisfied and happy every time.