Because of the no bookings policy, you are generally advised to arrive early 'to avoid disappointment', though at 1pm on a Thursday lunchtime, the place is busy but there's the odd table available and this was no problem. While there is a dedicated dining room (one half of the pub), in the drinkers half you can still order food from the same menu which makes things a little easier. Being a pub, I go to the bar for a drink but they do offer to bring it to the table even in the pub section which is nice. Decor, as can be seen above, is proper London pub.
For starters, crab on toast appeals obviously, the warm snail and bacon salad is interesting (in a pub) cuttlefish in ink is certainly different for 'pub grub', but I settle on Pressed Pig's Head in Vinaigrette. My friend has the day's special, burrata and tomatoes. For me, three large, thin slices of pig's head arrive, generously topped with vinaigrette, capers and diced shallot. It's reasonably fatty but that ensures you are never short changed on flavour and there's an earthy note there too, but the combination of the vinaigrette, capers and shallot worked brilliantly, overlaying the fats to balance out the dish, such that it felt cleaner and even lighter, helped too by slices rather than larger chunks. The capers and shallots also ensured the dish never fell down on texture either.
On mains, my duck leg fills the bowl, a hulk of a leg that is dark enough, especially when sat on a bed of prunes, for me to worry whether they might have overdone it or not. They haven't and the duck is a real treat, crispy outside, still juicy meat inside, prunes and bacon adding salty sweetness. Only the mash was a disappointment, missing any lightness or fluffiness and too much hard work to bother with. My friend ordered the wild halibut with chickpeas in crab broth and enjoyed it, though as both mains arrive, I can't help but think that on presentation, they are not entirely doing their food justice but I'm sure many will argue that it's only the taste that matters (and they are a proper pub, not a fancy Michelin restaurant).
Desserts were a plum and almond tart and a 'lemon pot, cassis and shortbread'. I wondered how the cassis would be incorporated here and when it came sitting on the lemon pot (presumably straight out the bottle), I still wasn't sure what to make of it. It worked however fabulously well as the lemon pot had a nice little bite to it that the cassis then tamed leaving me more impressed with this £4 dessert than I possibly imagined I could be on ordering.
Overall then, The Anchor & Hope delivered a meal where I enjoyed all three courses and where the bill for that food came to just £23 before service which has to be seen as great value in anyone's book. Service was admittedly up and down but mostly friendly, and the genuine pub experience (decor, service, food presentation) will likely appeal to more customers than if their mash were in a quenelle not a dollop. Having been mostly disappointed by London's pub food so far, The Anchor & Hope impressed us with the diversity of its menu and the flavours they were able to extract from the ingredients. Given the price point too, we understand why The Anchor & Hope is considered one of London's top pubs for food.