Long have we been urged to go by many a foodie friend and with no shortage of raving reviews and a Michelin star no less - we finally ventured to the holy grail of nose to tail eating in London: St John in Smithfield.
To us this is the ultimate, authentic British cuisine - reviving old dishes and styles and in the process reaffirming and reinvigorating the british dining scene. With cuts of meat on the menu like heart, spleen and bone marrow, this is real food, cooked in a careful way that on one hand looks to the past and draws upon a strong heritage of cooking, but also looks forward with modern airy decor and and relaxed service.
.My first impression was immediately welcoming the maitre d' was smiling and friendly. The space, open, bright and not too formal. But you could tell there was a confidence in the air, that the staff new it was good and we would enjoy our meal.
Straight away I felt comfortable and happy here.
Now to the food. St John is nose to tail eating and that alone is a great thing, no wastage. When we arrived we were offered the special which was a roasted lamb shoulder or lambs neck for two. You just know they have brought in a few whole lamb carcasses and were offering all parts as a different dish. Its not just the variety of cuts and styles what really grabs you is the skill in which they cook and serve the dishes. It is simple, unadorned and life affirming.
Im less adventurous than Nick who would happily eat all manner of strange things like liver, testicles, brains, eyes and head cheese when offered, but still enjoyed my more typical offerings.
So I ate:
Mutton and Fennel Broth
A healthy portion for a starter, it would be great on a cold winters day
Braised Rabbit, Bacon and Mustard
A rich creamy sauce, offset with spring greens and broad beans on the side.
Nectarine and Raspberry Pie
Its no secret I love my sweet things. This was special because it was a whole pie just for me - not a piece or a slice. The nectarine was a nice touch and the whole thing had a fresh home made feel to it.
Nick ate lots of offal as usual:
Roast Bone marrow and parsley salad
Nick jumped on this one. Being no stranger to bone marrow with one his favourite dishes being Osso Bucco the dish itself was precluded by the placement of a specialised marrow fork on the table just before serving.
Lamb Sweetbreads, Peas and Bacon.
Lightly crumbed and shallow fried, these sweet breads were "out of this world" and had Nick raving like a lunatic for the rest of the meal about them.
Summer Berry Eton Mess
Hooray, this was a great dessert, loads of sugary cream and chewy meringue complimented by the tart drizzle of blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. Nick found the sheer quantity of cream a little overwhleming, but was pleased to order such a British classic from this kitchen.
The meal came in around 50 pounds each with tip for four people including two bottles of wine. Our friends who dined with us enjoyed it too but our friend Mel was a bit let down with her pigeon for main. With no sauce or accompaniments the meat was a bit bland and very rare - which whilst is to be expected for a bird of that kind wasn't the ideal way to anchor the meal.
But that was but a minor blip in what was a terrific meal. A wonderful experience. We can't recommend it enough. I'm giving St John Smithfield 5 out of 5 hearts for my meal.
26 St John Street
tel: 020 7251 0848
tel: 020 7251 0848