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Graduates from the school of St John are now making their own mark on London's restaurant scene, but it's worth going back to their roots to enjoy nose-to-tail pioneer Fergus Henderson's original "carnivore's carnival".
"Oh, the bone marrow and parsley…" sighs
one enamoured fan. This famous plate is one
of the few fixtures on a full-blooded daily roster that changes with the seasons: in December, you might see pheasant and trotter pie followed by sherry trifle; in June, peas in the pod and strawberry Eton mess; and come the Glorious Twelfth, there's exemplary roast
grouse – "juicy, rare and easy to carve". It sounds simple, but the results are "absolutely superb" – as you'd expect from a Michelin-starred kitchen. The whitewashed canteen-style dining room (once a smokehouse) has bags of atmosphere – although you might
feel "short-changed" if you're consigned to
one of the communal benches. Wines show
a somewhat "unhealthy dependency" on France, but they're corking value.
When I think of self-flagellation, an image of Berengar, the forlorn monk from In The Name of the Rose comes to mind. Attempting to absolve his sins (having and acting upon his homosexual desire), he’d whip himself with a specially crafted belt, ripping out slices of skin from his back as he did.Some may liken a fair weather-vegetarian visiting St. John Smithfield to such self-flagellation. Indeed, as plate after plate of whole bone marrow were whisked through the dining room on dainty porcelain, resisting the temptation to divert from my mission was challenging.But resist I did, for I was eager...
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I remember my first dinner at St John, a Michelin-starred institution by Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson, a good few years back. I tried tongue for the first time, both lamb and ox, and my gentleman companion struggled to finish a grouse so rare it was practically squawking. It was brilliant.We recently returned on a Thursday evening (after Lizzie Mabbot‘s Chinatown Kitchen book launch at the Drapers Arms – do have a look at it on Amazon) with no reservation and they managed to squeeze us in – only just. The dining room was packed with an intriguing mix of suited, high-fiving men and trendy chaps with...
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We’d escaped to the Beckford Arms at the weekend, a gastropub with rooms, deep in the heart of the West Country. Run by boys who look like they should be in a Boden catalogue, it’s well worth a visit, although we don’t stay in the body of the pub. Set in the heart of the adjacent Fonthill Estate is an old barn, converted into two self-contained über-sheds, run by the hotel and overlooking some stunning countryside. This is our destination. Deep joy of joys, there is no phone signal, but there is wi-fi. The other way round would have been unacceptable.They must have known I was coming, though, because there,...
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