st. john bar & restaurant
There aren’t many serious foodies who have not heard of St. John, the restaurant made famous by former head chef and champion of nose-to-tail eating, Fergus Henderson. Favoured by chefs, critics and punters alike for its good honest British cooking, it currently holds 14th spot on the highly regarded San Pellegrino world’s best restaurant list. We have eaten at St. John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields, but never at its more celebrated sister restaurant – somehow our plans to dine there always fell through.
It so happens T is in town again, and having already introduced her to a good number of our regular haunts on her previous visit, we seized this opportunity to try something new, heading with her in tow to St. John today for a late lunch (they started opening on sundays last month). The restaurant was at best a third full when we arrived at our designated 1:45pm slot which left us wondering why we had been told there was nothing available earlier. Those thoughts were pushed aside as our waitress set the menu in front of us – it was after all nearly 2pm and we were ready to eat.
There wasn’t much that caught my eye starter-wise, I would usually opt for the marrow but I didn’t want to begin with anything too heavy (yes, I know St. John may not be the best choice for a light meal) so I decided to be adventurous and try the Rolled Pig’s Spleen and Bacon. Compared to my dining companions’ first courses, mine was pitifully small which as it turns was a blessing, seeing that I did not care for it at all. It had an unappealing texture and strong livery taste, with no trace of bacon at all (which I imagine would have helped in making it more palatable). I ended up giving most of it to B, who actually quite enjoyed it perked up with the accompanying cornichons, sliced red onion and red wine vinegar.
T ordered the Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad I had dismissed, which with its reputation couldn’t really have been anything but excellent – and it was. Still, I was glad I bypassed it as the hefty serving of four towering bone sections and two slices of sourdough would have signaled an early end to my meal. It really was lovely though, rich molten goodness piled on top of toasted sourdough with a good sprinkling of flavoured sea salt.
Of all the starters, my favourite had to be B’s tasty Potted Pork and Rabbit which had a lovely creamy consistency. Mixing the two meats together was a great idea as the mild rabbit mellowed out the porkiness, making what was essentially a rillette, a lot lighter than expected.
For mains we shared the ox heart, the pie special and a side of greens. The sliced Ox Heart was delicious, with a strong, robust beefy flavour and a slightly springy texture. It paired really well with the sweet roasted beetroot and punchy horseradish, and I could have easily wolfed down the lot. I guess it’s a matter of taste though as although B and I loved it, T was not as keen, likening it to an overly tough piece of steak.
The Chicken and Ox Tongue Pie was good too, with a surprising (but totally successful) combination of moist chicken meat and tender ox tongue, bathed in a creamy white wine sauce. We did however find the suet crust too stodgy (a puff pastry lid would have been preferrable), and ended up leaving most of of it, choosing to eat the filling with the leafy greens instead.
None of us really needed any more food after our mains but we went ahead and ordered pudding anyway – a Pear and Treacle Sponge to share with a side of Honey and Nutmeg Ice Cream. The warm airy sponge soaked in treacle was the perfect pudding for a cold day, and delicious eaten with spoonfuls of lightly spiced ice cream.
It was a great meal, but one we all agreed that we couldn’t (for the sake of our waistlines) repeat too frequently. B and I literally ate enough for two meals and skipped dinner altogether, in fact it’s just turned midnight as I type this and I’m still so full I can hardly move. Yes, it definitely was a good move not ordering the marrow.
St John Restaurant
26 St. John Street
London, EC1M 4AY
t. 0871 332 8537