Saturday 16 June 2012

St John Bread and Wine: the last in the trilogy

My journey round Fergus Henderson's empire (of "Nose to Tail Eating" fame) started some three years ago with a trip to his original restaurant in Smithfields.  Before Fergus' intervention up and down the UK incredible parts of the animal, so common on the menu of any self-respecting "Gastropub" today, were being discarded. From sweetbreads to chitterlings. No. Unless it was a standard cut, we just weren't interested. Give me sirloin they cried, you can keep your belly! And then came "Nose to Tail Eating", a revolution in the very meaning of "delicacy".  After opening his original restaurant in 1994, FG then opened Bread and Wine in Spitalfields in 2003, and thereafter St John Hotel and Restaurant in 2011.

Despite living in the East End, I had only been to the Smithfields and Soho outlets, both of which I love.  And so, with Jubilee weekend upon us, what better reason than to complete the triumvirate of all things offal.  Needless to say our attempt to get a ring-side seat for the Jubilee float-past failed, stuck in the rain for almost two hours we were, with more chance of seeing the Pope than the Queen.  Thankfully, however, we had been to St John's Bread and Wine on the way and were, therefore, at least warm on the inside.

As with his other restaurants, the interior is stripped back white, utilitarian.  The menu is a little different, however.  Rather than being split in the usual way, this menu is divided by time: dishes available post 12:00pm, others available post 1:00pm, the desserts presumably available all the time.  As we weren't looking for anything too heavy, having gorged ourselves at God Save the Clam the night before, we decided to have a couple of post 12pm dishes as they seemed on the lighter side.  (I have to admit though, having seen the gigantic whole Cornish crabs being served, I did have some serious food envy).

I had the pig's head, rolled and pressed into cubes, breaded and fried. This came with delicious crunchy radish and a tarragon mayo.  The pig was juicy, gelatinous, as pig's head should be.  It was nicely offset by the mayo and radishes although a couple of leaves would have improved the dish for me by cutting through the fat from the head.

The Fashionista had the crab broth with cuttlefish and butter beans.  The liquor was intense and you were left thanking your lucky stars that the portion was small.  Delicious at this size, but more would have been too much.  Unfortunately the soup was served with a rather large bit of herby butter plonked in the middle.  This did little to improve things, the dish would have been better without.

All in, with some lovely sourdough bread (you would expect nothing less from St John, the bread is always second-to-none) and a coffee, the bill came in at a very reasonably £17 for the two of us.  Not massive portions, but enough to feel that you had had a very enjoyable lunch indeed.  Highly recommended.
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