Take a trip around the world at The Anvil Pub, where the oft-changing menu travels to Great Britain, India, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, and beyond—but still speaks with a Southern accent.
The Anvil’s European-inspired paella risotto made with saffron, sofrito, and English peas might be served with shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. Barbecue-smoked chicken wings recently were tossed in Trinidadian green curry, a nod to culinary director Sedesh Boodram Wilkerson’s home country, Trinidad and Tobago.
Boudin, a Louisiana-style liver-and-pork sausage, stars in The Anvil’s take on the British snack Scotch Egg. It’s the dish Wilkerson prepared in the recently televised Food Network cooking competition, “Beat Bobby Flay.”
“You can get a Scotch Egg anywhere you go in England, but ours is unique because it has a Southern taste,” says Wilkerson, who opened The Anvil in 2020. “I want to make sure that the product you get here you can’t get anywhere else.”
Located on U.S. 280, The Anvil offers the comfort and conviviality of a pub, with the creative cooking and quality of service worthy of fine dining. Both Wilkerson and chef de cuisine Trenton Tisdale are alumni of Birmingham’s lauded Hot and Hot Fish Club restaurant (Wilkerson was part of the Hot and Hot team that bested Flay in a 2012 battle on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America”). Wilkerson’s resume also includes working for legendary chef Thomas Keller at Per Se restaurant in New York City after graduating as valedictorian from the French Culinary Institute.
But when the chef and parent started planning his own restaurant, Wilkerson intentionally moved away from the classic fine dining model. He wanted a place where family members with decidedly different tastes could find something on the menu they would enjoy, from familiar to fancy.
“I wanted it to be where you can come dressed up or come dressed down,” he says. “You can have that fine dining experience because there are elements on the menu that have that. If you want to come in for a quick dinner on a Tuesday night you can have that as well.”
The Anvil is the kind of place where fish and chips and hamburgers are the best-sellers, but the most coveted reservation is for its monthly Wellington Wednesday when the restaurant serves its version of the intricately-made beef entrée. The two-day process starts with searing large beef tenderloins, slicing prosciutto ham, and making the minced mushroom preparation, duxelles.
The kitchen assembles the dish by rubbing the beef in mustard, encasing it in the duxelles, wrapping it with prosciutto, covering it with puff pastry, and decorating with a pastry lattice. Once baked and sliced, each layer adds a new dimension of decadence to the flavor.
“We do it the last Wednesday of the month,” Wilkerson says. “The guests are always excited. When people see it, we get a lot of oohs and ahs.”
The Anvil also holds High Tea every month. Served with finger sandwiches, canapes, and sweets, High Tea is much more elaborate than what most people associate with afternoon tea in England. The dates vary, but High Tea is always on a Saturday. Announcements are made on the restaurant’s social media accounts, and reservations fill quickly. The special High Tea planned in conjunction with King Charles’ coronation on May 6 sold out in minutes.
Wilkerson thinks his participation in “Iron Chef America” put him on the radar for “Beat Bobby Flay.” He chose to make The Anvil’s take on Scotch Egg, which traditionally is a whole boiled egg encased in breakfast sausage then breaded and fried. His twist of using freshly-made boudin as well as homemade remoulade sauce was well-received by the judges, but he narrowly lost after a preparation mishap during the fast-paced competition.
Appearing on “Beat Bobby Flay” was good exposure for the restaurant, Wilkerson says. It almost didn’t happen. When the producers first tried to contact him, Wilkerson ignored the email. But after the restaurant’s general manager, several employees—even Wilkerson’s teenaged daughter—told him how much they like the show, he relented. He’s glad they talked him into it. He enjoyed the experience, and it’s been good exposure for The Anvil Pub.
“That was one of the major reasons I did it, advertising,” he says. “I just wanted to let people know who we are and where we are. We’re not downtown. We’re out here.”