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St John


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As far as I know you don't have to book weeks in advance unlike some other places in London - we booked the table (for 8) the day before.

Though I guess if it's first on your list, better to be safe and book a week or so in advance (esp for a thurs/fri).

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Just had dinner there last night, it was packed and service was very overwhelmed. I was with a large party and there was nearly a 45 minute wait between each course. The starters/mains/desserts were completely up to snuff:

- salad of skate, chicory, anchovies and capers in a light mayonnaisey dressing was extremely very moreish

- hare pie with shallots was awesome, really game and caramelly; side of swede was a bit thin and not very flavourful, the only disappointment of the meal; side of greens - the waiter said they were 'sprout tops', I didn't know sprouts had tops, and these reminded me of 'spring greens' - thick shiny green leaves lightly saute'd and salted

- eccles cake and Lancashire cheese, I *really* wanted to eat two but could only manage one.

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I am speaking on panel with Fergus at IACP in March.. so am going to meet him and have lunch in Feb... right now I am just cooking my way through Nose to Tail.. and doing my Whole Hog Homework!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Having read this forum for sometime before taking my girlfriend to London this weekend, this became the #1 restaurant on our list of places to try. We ate an enjoyable meal at Bistrotheque the night before, where the duck shepherd's pie stood out, and arriving Saturday night on an otherwise deserted block to a restaurant tucked into an anonymous structure it was surprising how similar both restaurants were to each other in architecture, interior and location.

I'd read the menus the days prior and was sorry to see both roast beef and haggis shift off the menu but it forced us and a friend to try something new. The bone marrow salad was exactly what I hoped it would be, plentiful and succulent, with more toast than you need. The only other restaurant I have this is at Blue Ribbon in NYC where it comes with an oxtail ragout to smother on the bread as well but there was enough flavor here not to need that.

Unless fowl is just that expensive, I'm still not sure why the woodcock was the most expensive thing on the menu that night. It's difficult to eat and there's not much meat on it. The only thing I remember most about that was the waitress returning with the brain spoon, as we soon realized the head of the bird was split open on the plate to be dug out. It was cold and the only taste that came to mind was edamame but it was an experience.

The better entrees were the beef mince with drippings toast which was more buttery than stew-like which it appeared as at first and the chitterlings with turnips which while I'm sure is the worst thing for your heart it was one of the best dishes I've ever had, so juicy without being too watery or salty.

For dessert we ordered the last half dozen madelines - it was nice being seated near the kitchen so we were constantly aware of what dishes were running out - the apple cider sorbet with a shot of vodka which we turned into an icy applesauce topping for the madelines, the blood orange meringue which tasted, in a very good way, like Lucky Charms, the warm chocolate pudding which is sadly like every other molten chocolate cake the world over, and the eccles cake with cheese. Not realizing that was more of a savory dessert we were happy it cut some of the other dishes and that they all contrasted from one another.

It was packed Saturday night, we arrived at 8pm and were there til the kitchen basically ran out of everything, but it's easy to book a table a week out on Opentable which is what we did. It fills up fast though as a few days before our dinner we couldn't change our reservation time.

The bill for three appetizers, three entrees, five desserts and one bottle of wine and tip was US$260 which seemed a bargain. The waitress was knowledgable but bad at recommending dishes as she kept saying everything was great which was true but still.

While in a completely different category the only other meal this weekend that was a real standout was Yauatcha. The Wolseley was a terrible disappointment.

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Woodcock is pretty expensive-about £16 each retail.Why would chitterlings and turnip be bad for your heart?-very lean and not high in cholesterol like brains, sweetbreads, marrow and testicles. The dish itself is notably unrich, I recall.

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Woodcock is pretty expensive-about £16 each retail.Why would chitterlings and turnip be bad for your heart?-very lean and not high in cholesterol like brains, sweetbreads, marrow and testicles. The dish itself is notably unrich, I recall.

16 quid for a woodcock??!! I got one from Wyndhams for 8.50 last week - and he was embarrased at charging that much and gave me a partridge for free as well! Very tasty it was too. The man there said they have gone up over the last couple of years - used to be 6 each. I do wonder about the foodcost percentage at St.Js sometimes, as much as I've enjoyed the cooking. 22 pounds for a partridge and lentil dish - partridge 3 quid retail, can't be more than 2/2.25 wholesale, not much for the lentils, so pretty much 10% of the cost of the dish total. hmmm...

Edited by alexhills (log)
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I found the chitterlings to be the richest dish we had and certainly salty, though I may have mistaken very difficult to cut as fatty. The woodcock, it just seemed like presentation over flavor. It seemed as though more preparation went into every other dish we ordered. Still I'd definitely go there again next time I'm in London and every dish contributed to the experience. Regarding the price, I realize the exchange rate is at play, but I'm rarely at ever confronted with an entree that's US$50 and with the woodcock the expectations didn't meet the price.

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Woodcock is pretty expensive-about £16 each retail.Why would chitterlings and turnip be bad for your heart?-very lean and not high in cholesterol like brains, sweetbreads, marrow and testicles. The dish itself is notably unrich, I recall.

16 quid for a woodcock??!! I got one from Wyndhams for 8.50 last week - and he was embarrased at charging that much and gave me a partridge for free as well! Very tasty it was too. The man there said they have gone up over the last couple of years - used to be 6 each. I do wonder about the foodcost percentage at St.Js sometimes, as much as I've enjoyed the cooking. 22 pounds for a partridge and lentil dish - partridge 3 quid retail, can't be more than 2/2.25 wholesale, not much for the lentils, so pretty much 10% of the cost of the dish total. hmmm...

Nice price! was it properly hung?

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I found the chitterlings to be the richest dish we had and certainly salty, though I may have mistaken very difficult to cut as fatty. The woodcock, it just seemed like presentation over flavor. It seemed as though more preparation went into every other dish we ordered. Still I'd definitely go there again next time I'm in London and every dish contributed to the experience. Regarding the price, I realize the exchange rate is at play, but I'm rarely at ever confronted with an entree that's US$50 and with the woodcock the expectations didn't meet the price.

I don't think St.John's the place if you want preparation! kind of the opposite-which has its place.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had a very disappointing meal here today.

There were a number of service errors that were not apologised for, and that were handled poorly. I don't really care about service in restaurants, and it is very unusual for me to notice one way or the other, but the service was poor, and annoyingly arrogant. Which of course wouldn't have mattered if the food was up to snuff, but it wasn't.

The only satisfactory dish was a teal with beetroot, which was a single very small bird, perfectly cooked, with a couple of beetroot served with it. This was a serious letdown from a good to excellent meal I had had last year. I don't know if this was a one off, but the food was consistently mediocre apart from the teal. Ok ham, ok halibut, poor pigs tails, adequate bone marrow, fresh but small native oysters etc.

We left before the pudding.

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We are visiting from New York and have a reservation for Monday, March 5th. However, I am one of the few in my party who will be eating an extensive amount of offal (other than more "mainstream" offal like sweetbreads, which most members of our party will eat). Are the non-offal options good or would someone eating some of the more "standard" items be disappointed?

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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'Standard' items are good and prepared in the same style (i.e. minimum of frills).

The menu changes daily so its hard to say exactly what will be on offer when you go there, but you can keep an eye on the menu on their website to have an idea of what to expect. Today's menu includes hare saddle with beetroot which I had about a month ago and was particularly good.

Menu at St John

Enjoy. St John is a practically unique experience but not as extreme as many articles in the press would have you believe.

Janice

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I ate here for the first time last night and (thankfully) had a very different experience to Balex. The service was lovely, relaxed and friendly but still very smooth and efficient. Food was excellent - even my sister, for whom offal has very little appeal, found that she had interesting choices. In fact, having initially agreed a little reluctantly to take me there for my birthday, by the end she'd decided that she'll definitely be going again!

My bone marrow and parsley salad was very good; my sister had venison with beetroot and pickled walnuts, just superb, and her partner had an excellent mutton broth. Mains of crispy pigs' tails, guineafowl, and faggot respectively were all lovely; my pigs' tails were a delicious mixture of textures and beautifully flavoured, while the faggot was absolutely delicous. After all that (and a rather late lunch earlier in the day) we just shared some madeleines for dessert, which we enjoyed very much. Highly recommended, even for those who aren't keen on offal!

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  • 4 months later...
  • 10 months later...

St. Johns --- Haute Slaughterhouse

There are some restaurants that change the culinary landscape: gastronomic earthquakes. Chez Penisse, Union Square Café, El Bulli and The American Place are some that come to mind. St. John, set near London’s Smithfield Market, is another. Chef Fergus Henderson believes in using the animal from head to end, as he describes in his respected 2004 cookbook The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. Chef Henderson is fighting a wasting ailment, and will probably never stand behind a stove, but his influence is profound.

St. John eschews the fancy for the solid, the dramatic for the solid. While this style of cuisine has been termed Haute Barnyard, I think of it as Haute Slaughterhouse. It is less the product of the farm than of the butcher. The menu my evening included salted pig’s liver, kid, and chitterlings, but also such rarely served seafood as brill, and pollock. The dining room is ostentatiously simple, more like a nineteenth century workers’ mess, along the lines of Peter Luger. And prices are modest by London standards (my four courses were about 40 pounds).

My starter was a single gull’s egg with celery salt. I had some idea that this might be an egg of special flavor, but, despite a spotted shell and startling orange yolk, eaten blindfold this had the taste much like any hardboiled egg.

The appetizer, a signature dish for Chef Henderson was Roasted Bone Marrow – four rough cut bones – with their marrow intact, served with Grilled Toast, Sea Salt, and Parsley Salad with Capers and Onions. This was carnally sublime and the recognition that marrow is moral deservedly helped to catapult St. Johns into the influential establishment that it is. St. John’s food is neither complex or fussy, what makes this work so well is that Henderson takes what has not be considered to be restaurant food, and prove its delights. The addition of the parsley salad matched the marrow, both in its lushness and in that it overturns the belief that parsley is not a suitable focus for high end dining. A remarkable appetizer.

I chose Veal’s Tongue with Beetroot as my main course. The plate was almost audacious in its simplicity. I was presented with two pieces of veal tongue, baked and fried, and some plain beets. Yet, the modesty of the tongue, a most remarkably tender cut with the slightest taste of cured beef tongue, proved that this is no parlor trick. The beet matched the tongue without being elaborated in any way.

As dessert I selected St. John’s treatment of an Eccles Cake, served with a slice of Lancaster cheese. The cheese was perfectly vibrant, but the Eccles cake, filled with a think and dense layer of raisins, was more of a pastry than a dessert, strictly speaking, and might have been more appealing had it been served warm with a scoop of, say, rum raisin ice cream.

St. Johns plainspeak is distant from the elegance of Gordon Ramsay where I ate lunch, and yet it is perhaps a measure of the influence of the former on the latter than my lunch included pied au cochon and duck gizzard. While we have not seen a large influence of haute slaughterhouse cuisine on the American shores – and it may take awhile to penetrate, given Yankee squeamishness towards offal – in time we will be consuming veal tongue, unless moral politics intervenes.

St. John

26 St. John Street

London (Smithfield Market)

020-7251-0848

www.stjohnrestaurant.com

For photos see:

Vealcheeks

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  • 3 months later...

I had lunch with Fergus, before we did our presentation for IACP, and at a table for 6...

I would say my FAVORITES:

Pig cheek salad, bone marrow, Fish and chips.

also his breads on the sandwich side were totally appealing.

Looked fabulous.

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Chitterlings are good, the Welsh rarebit is unmissable (you can have it as a side if you like) as is the eccles cake. The desserts are very good - the apple and Calvados trifle on the current menu sounds cracking (haven't had it myself though).

I popped in for coffee at the bar earlier this week. While we were waiting to be served, the waitress prepared two glasses of Fernet Branca mixed with creme de menthe for a couple of restaurant customers. It was 3.00pm on Monday afternoon.

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Everything we ordered at St. John today was wonderful. We started with the roasted bone marrow and parsley salad and the langoustines and mayonnaise. What I really wanted was the sardines that they were serving at the bar out front, but they would not let us order it inside the restaurant.

For our mains, we had the smoked eel, beetroot and horseradish and the skate, chips and tartare sauce. Our sides were potatoes and runner beans.

The hostess was named Emily and apparently she is from the states (SF, I think). We just missed Fergus as we walked in, or so we were told. I would not hesitate to visit this place again. Next time, I think I'll go for the chitterlings and dandelion and the snail, sausage and chickpeas (these were alternate dishes that we were thinking of having).

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  • 1 month later...

I visited recently for lunch, had the bone marrow and wild mushrooms on toast. Absolutely fantastic. And it’s not just the food. The space itself is cool in the most comfortable possible way, not a bit self-conscious and a buzzing atmosphere. A big hit with Steve too.

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