Wednesday, 2 March 2011

St John

Tomorrow I fly to Bangkok for a 2 months eating & cooking S-E Asian food (see previous post)...and so, last night, by way of a final treat (& in contrast to all the Asian grub I'll soon be scoffing) the girlfriend and I had dinner at St John.

Anyone who knows anything about restaurants in London knows this restaurant, and the towering reputation of it's chef-founder Fergus Henderson.

It didn't disappoint. We ate, amongst other things,...brown shrimps with white cabbage, pigeon & trotter pie (for 2) and ginger cake with vanilla ice cream & butterscotch sauce.

The dishes read almost too simple; you're not entirely sure how they'll be delicious ("errr is it just cabbage and shrimp then...?") but, at St John, they always are.

And they were: the brown shrimp came in a pile of finely shredded dressed cabbage, dotted with delicious little capers, the pie was deep, savoury and moreish; the dessert was in the style of your granny's but with a taste about 10 notches up - the sauce like velvet with just the perfect amount of burnt sugar bitterness tempering the sweetness.

As much as the food, the thing I like about St John is the restaurant's philosophy & atmosphere. It's one of London's most successful and admired restaurants, but it's not pretentious. The food is amazingly simple but utterly delicious. The dishes are the result of finding amazing ingredients and doing just enough to show them off, and nothing more.
Everything on the plate is there for the eating, not to impress the eye, and if that means a dish of just four ingredients, then so be it.

It seems to me the people who eat at St John are real foodies. Not the flash types you get at Royal Hospital road, but a fairly bohemian mix of people who happen to know good food. The food is not cheap, but £83 for three courses, a shared dessert and a bottle of red isn't that pricey can get some very shit meals in London for that money.

If I was going to open a restaurant then it would definitely be in the style of places like St John, Moro, Trullo etc - small & regularly changing menu, interesting simple food, relaxed atmosphere...

...just perhaps with bowls of rice instead of baskets of sourdough.

Next post from Bangkok!


St. JOHN Bar & Restaurant Smithfield
26 St John Street
Tel: +44(020) 7251 0848


Bob said...

The pies at St John (it was pheasant and trotter last time I went) are some of the greatest things I have ever eaten. Absolutely historic.

And you're absolutely right about the simplicity of the menu - comparing the simple name of a dish with its complex taste heightens the experience for me, at least in part because you're often not entirely certain what you're going to get.

Anonymous said...

I see that you like earn kheaw, have you tried 101 Thai in hammersmith? Their isaan food is far superior imo

Andy said...

bob - i shamelessly neglected to give you and your pie advice an honourable mention. will shoe-horn you in to a subsequent post to make up for it old boy!

anon - yes esarn kheaw is on that list. though am going to tae it off as hadnt been for years and went again recently...wasnt really impressed. thai people from work had recommended 101 to me as well so will go on my return. though did hear they love their msg! thanks for the tip will defo try.