02 September 2010
No matter how good the starters on the menu are (and there are always some tempting offerings), nothing can compare to the bone marrow on toast, and it gets me every time. I know that I should try something else, but once again I failed. Four pieces of melting bone marrow, encased in burnt bone, with a parsley and caper salad. There is truly no finer single signature dish in London. OK, the great Piere Koffman is back with his pigs trotter stuffed with thyroid glands. That is hard to beat; but Fergus has been doing this for fifteen years without a break, and it never tires.
Why though is it every time that I go that Mr H is sitting eating here? Surely he should be behind the stove? I remember not too long ago that this was the case: you would see the great man in his apron, directing traffic. Now he sits and eats. Maybe this is like going to a Chinese restaurant full of Chinese: go to a restaurant where the chef is eating.
There is nothing fancy on offer here (even if it does now boast a Michelin star); if the menu says Old Spot, that is what you get: one perfectly cooked pork chop, perhaps accompanied by its cooking juices. If you have the time (and the numbers), I recommend the whole sucking pig. Not the tiny little fellas that grace the tables at Segovian restaurants: all single servings, cut with a plate. No, a slightly bigger version, ready to feed ten or more, served whole. Head on (alas no apple though). If you don't have ten, nor have you ordered the day before, there are always good specials, as well as the staples.
Today it was grouse. I love grouse. It is probably my single favourite dish, and the reason why I love autumn above all other seasons. I am always pleased when St Johns has it on the menu as it is one of the finest there is in London. Here and Rules. Unlike Rules, however, you get proper bread sauce. Yum. The season has just started, so the grouse, whilst flavourful, is not as strong as it will get by December. My companion had the aforementioned Old Spot, another staple that never fails to impress: smoked and pot roasted today, and very fine too.
The wine list is a decent one too, with plenty of mid ranking bottles: the grouse and old spot went beautifully with a bottle of cote du Rhone, at a more than reasonable £26 a bottle (and £6.50 a glass!).
There are some niggles; even since the revamp, it is basically still an austere, white on white decor, which isn't to everyone's taste (the bar is a more buzzy place to be, without being brash and overbearing), but worst of all, the service can be extremely slow. I'm sorry, but the bored looking waitresses really should liven up just a little bit. Prices are keen but not cheap, and you are supposed to be helping those that wish to dine here: ungrump please.
These are, however, mere niggles for what remains, after more than a decade-and-a-half, one of London's finest restaurants and, should you believe the hype, one of the top restaurants in the world.