It’s equally slick and sharp, and feels spacious at 6,000 square feet. The Anthologist also has one of the best new drinks terraces in the city – the perfect spot to people watch across the bustling square or to look out over the stunning architecture of The Midland Hotel and Central Library.
It’s reassuring to discover then that the drinks are worthy of the terrace. The wine list includes plenty by the glass, as well as a decent selection of champagnes and sparkling wines, with a few pricier options by the bottle if you fancy splashing out.
The cocktails have a garden-inspired theme, with seasonal berries, homemade syrups and plenty of fragrant botanicals, dressed elegantly with flowers and herbs.
My La Vie en Rose long cocktail was a fragrant, well-balanced affair with organic vodka, lime, berry tea, rose water, bitter orange and elderflower tonic.
Plenty More Fish in the G&T had a showier presentation, the plastic-free clear bag and little fish cut out of lemon peel reminding us of childhood fairgrounds. The flavours of rosemary, samphire and pink grapefruit add a gentle seaside summeriness.
The Anthologist doesn’t neglect the classics, though. A margarita was perfectly tart, crisp and drinkable, a fine balance of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. There’s also a range of zero proof concoctions including several coming in at under 50 calories – think pomegranate juice with sharp lemon, rose water, tonic and a za’atar salt rim, or homemade saffron lemonade.
There are various sharing platters, flatbreads and snacks to graze on with drinks, or an all-day menu for something more substantial.
There’s also a separate breakfast menu – The Anthologist is open from 8am in the week – and weekend brunch options (from 10am) offering buttermilk chicken with waffles, smoked trout with mascarpone-creamed eggs, or a selection of burgers from Wagyu to halloumi.
The Sunday roast chicken comes with pigs in blankets as standard, because, as we all know, they’re not just for Christmas.
We started with a board of chicken wings, sticky and joyously messy to eat with a rich glaze of sweet maple syrup, ale and a touch of chilli heat. Prawn lollipops were enveloped in the lightest, crispiest batter.
The burgers make an appearance on the main menu too, alongside an admirable selection of summer salads – roast cauliflower with olive tapenade, perhaps, or baby beetroot with broad beans, goat’s curd and hazelnut.
The classic mains are definitely crowd pleasers – fish pie with cheddar potato crust, roast lamb rump with samphire, or sea bass with wilted greens and beurre blanc. The specials list demonstrates a bit more imagination – swordfish burger with beetroot bun on our visit, alongside cod and duck dishes.
The rich, perfectly fatty confit duck leg came with honey pak choi, lifted by a citrusy coriander dressing spiked with fresh chilli. Tender, flaky pan fried cod fillet sat atop al dente asparagus and salty samphire, with well-turned pomme fondantes demonstrating some old school skills with the knife.
Portions are generous so sides aren’t necessary, but I somehow found myself unable to say “no” when asked, “would you like some truffle and parmesan fries?”
I’m glad that was the case, because these were fat and golden, more proper chips than skinny fries, topped with a heady hit of earthy truffle, salty fresh parmesan and aromatic rosemary.
Puddings are classic and comforting – think chocolate brownie or crème brulee. Options such as toffee-roasted pineapple and salted caramel plum sundae are a little more unusual, the latter a creamy, sweet yet sharp hit on our visit.
Alternatively, there are liquid desserts. An After Eight Martini with vodka, crème de menthe, Cadbury’s drinking chocolate and mint felt suitably decadent and hit all the right nostalgia buttons.
The Anthologist seems to have hit the ground running. And with confident, friendly service, a crowd pleasing menu and a great sun terrace on St Peter’s Square, it’s hardly a surprise.
And if that’s not enough of a draw, just wait until they get the city’s first Negroni fountain next week, running until 12th August. It certainly beats a water feature.