St John 333

26 St John Street , London, EC1M 4AY

St John - 2007 - Dining Room

SquareMeal Review of St John

Squaremeal London Hot 100 2016St John’s utilitarian simplicity was revolutionary back in the day, and its ‘nose-to-tail’ concept raised a few eyebrows too. Once ahead of its time, it’s now of its time – and is still relevant. The industrial minimalism of the starkly white interior places the focus firmly on matters gastronomic (and the company you’re keeping, of course), while the menu reads like a foodie’s dream – “oh, the bone marrow and parsley”, sighs one fan. Alternatively, play it safe with a damn fine pea and ham soup or go for broke – braised cuttlefish and alexanders, lambs’ tongues with chicory and anchovy, or braised hare with swede, kid liver with turnips are “simply great”. As for pud, take your pick from the likes of quince and hazelnut pavlova or apple and blackberry pie. “Everything is good, I never know what to eat”, sums up readers’ heartfelt enthusiasm for Fergus Henderson’s trailblazer turned Michelin-starred City treasure. The wine list is exclusively French, with interesting options by the glass and bottles to take out too.

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7.4

Food & Drink: 7.6

Service: 7.0

Atmosphere: 6.2

Value: 6.1

Food & Drink: 1.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 1.0

Foodess platinum reviewer 10 July 2016

From previous reviews I could hardly believe that I was eating at the same restaurant, lunchtime early July 2016. I had heard about Fergus Henderson and so had a reasonable idea of what to expect, or so I thought. To begin, pollock served cold was unexpected (hot would have been preferable and being such an economic and unexciting fish in itself, it needs to be made interesting). Well they tried, but completely over-powered the dish with garlic in the aioli, to the extent that just a couple of mouthfuls gave my taste buds a zap over-lasting welcome. I was quickly offered an alternative and asked for the Kohlrabi. Simple but now heading to the opposite extreme; rather plain - claimed to be "the most refreshing starter" with capers, but given the fact that I truly had no more than 6 small pieces on my plate, they struggled to lift this boring dish which could have been better had it been generously drenched with herbs and extra capers. Bread and butter was fairly good; my main was completely lack lustre. Hake (served on the bone but the tail end, so not the fleshiest piece) didn’t even smell that appetising when I cut into it, and lacked seasoning too. The white beans with sea purslane again were anything but flavourful, cabbage was fine. My partner was quite under-whelmed with cold egg, ham and beans starter, describing the rabbit as rather ‘monochrome’, but we ploughed on. One be-spectacled staff member was an utter delight and had it not been for him and some of his colleagues, then the temptation may have been to ‘cut and run’ settling for starters and drinks. To finish we ordered Madeleines, having watched a plate waft by, which were cooked whilst you wait, so these just had to be good, didn’t they? To my great relief they were, but all too late to even approach redemption during a highly disappointing experience. Wine except for the blanc de blanc does not deserve mention. Not a vastly expensive meal overall, but £130 for two, mid-week lunch for the quality of ingredients and sub-standard dishes, the meal seemed exorbitant. I left over 50% of my main course - understandably we were now pariah’s to the staff, but one brave soul removed my plate in silence - I refrained from comment too, having given gentle feedback on my starter. I’d rather spend about the same money for food with real punchy flavours like Eric Chavot or Barra Fina. Nothing wrong with rustic style, simple, low-cost ingredients prepared with care, but this missed on many levels for all courses except one, all of which were rather one-dimensional. Just a bad day at the office, or does this place sometimes slip to depths that most restaurants would never ever want to reach?

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 2.0

Gourmand Gunno platinum reviewer 03 September 2015

If meat is your thing, you have intrepidity and lack squeamishness, then there are few better places than St John. That the restaurant has endured for well over a decade with very few tweaks to the format is testament to its success. The formula is very simple: a large white-washed room (admittedly somewhat akin to a canteen), serving high-quality British produce, but specialising in intestines and the like. On the downside, St John is not cheap and I would certainly feel somewhat short-changed had I been seated on one of the communal benches. At these prices, a bit of intimacy is not too much to ask. Fortuitously, my comrade and I enjoyed a table to the side of the room on a recent weekday evening visit. The place quickly filled up, but service remained friendly and efficient throughout. The excitement for me of dining at St. John is the opportunity to try things one might not normally. By way of example, I commenced with pickled tripe (i.e. animal stomach), while my comrade opted for the roast bone marrow. Other potential options included kidneys, grilled ox heart or lambs’ tongues. Our two dishes were presented well, tasted excellent and left us well-sated for the mains. It being grouse season, we both partook. Notwithstanding the potential eye-watering price of £38/grouse, the dish itself was prepared to perfection – juicy, rare and easy to carve – a notable feat, given this is a far from simple task. The bread sauce was a lovely foil and the astringency of the accompanying greens also helped balance the dish. After these two successes, there was still room for dessert and again our two choices (trifle and bread & butter pudding) were executed successfully. The wine list too deserves praise, full of good quality bottles, even if there is perhaps an unhealthy dependency on France. We enjoyed an Alsatian white followed by a decent red from the Languedoc. St John is definitely an experience – even if not an obviously cheap one.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

Graham A. bronze reviewer 29 April 2014

Lovely restaurant, really nice food

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

the stranger silver reviewer 17 May 2013

Took some clients to St John's for lunch and, having consciously avoided the place for over a decade, was pleasantly surprised. The food was unfussy, unpretentious and, most important, very tasty. The decor is a very claming all white. Nothing flashy at all. Tables are appropriately spaced and service was efficient. The food was very good and, as I understand that the menu changes daily, I will not go into any detail as to what we had. A thoroughly enjoyable experience at a reasonable price (including wine). I will be returning.

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 1.0

Dave B. 19 July 2011

We went to St John the other week and it was decidedly average. We had the sole and roast chicken (it was Sunday lunch). The food was underwhelming and what you would have expected at your local gastropub – sole OK but flabby and soggy, the chicken boring and bland. Lovely service though, and the wine list had some good choices at reasonable prices. Overall however, the pricing was way out of line for the quality and skill of the cooking. Very hard to believe St John has a Michelin star. I won't be going back.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 4.0

gmbklm gold reviewer 14 June 2011

Eaten at St John 3 times in the last 18m. Our most recent visit was April 11, having not eaten there since early 2010 (always booked up). Its pretty much unchanged, and every bit as good, with its focus on simple high quality English dishes, especially the “unpopular cuts”. The main white walled dining room is rather stark and cold, especially with its warehouse style lighting – but perfect abattoir décor ! OK when busy, but it must be very “cold” if there are times when the restaurant is quiet. The waitress and serving staff were very professional and knowledgeable, able to properly answer questions about the menu. However, not particularly friendly or charming. They coped very well with the very busy restaurant. We love the simple high quality, very tasty and very earthy style of the dishes (eg fantastic pigeon), unusual off-cut and offal dishes (eg chitterlings). Our venison offal was a little uninspiring; mainly liver. However, on a previous visit, it would have been difficult for the very gamey grouse to have been any more “red”, which might not be to everyone’s taste. The menu really focusses on the gutsy stronger tasting cuts and dishes. We had absolutely delicious trifle and apple cake for dessert. Possibly the best restaurant trifle I've eaten – Following on from Gary Rhodes great achievement 10+ yrs ago with Shepherds Pie ? We liked the wine list, with its unusual bias to well selected regional French. Great value at circa £75 for 2 for 2 courses inc service ex all drinks. Overall, a great restaurant, with professional staff serving very tasty and sometimes very unusual dishes. Long may it continue.

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 1.0

Value: 0.0

Peter B. 31 May 2011

A sustained exercise in sleight of hand . Indifferent and unpleasant staff serve mediocre food to posers whose main concern is to see them selves reflected in the eyes of other narcissists…avoid.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

David J. gold reviewer 28 May 2011

So much has been written about St. John Restaurant, I feel I’m only adding to the love letter pile. The humble little cave in Clerkenwell serving overt British organs and cut-offs has become cult. A holy shrine. True believers, once they’ve marked off Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, come here. Fergus Henderson’s straightforward combinations have drawn plaudits from across the globe. AA Gill commented that: “I have few regrets as a restaurant critic, but one is that I didn’t give Fergus Henderson a better review when he opened in Clerkenwell years ago.” And Anthony Bourdain – in his Introduction to Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking, says: “After eating the Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad at St. John, I declared it my always and forever choice for ‘Death Row Meal’, the last meal I’d choose to put in my mouth before they turned up the juice.” And now I pen where so many have before me, proclaiming the glories of Henderson and the Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad. Assuming you’ve eaten at St. John, please, sing along with me. Unfussy presentation, stripped simplicity of Carnivorousness affection. The culinary connection you share with the beast on your plate. The enthusiastic licking of lips. The pilgrimage complete. St. John is not just a must-try on the London culinary circuit. It summons grumbling bellies from all corners of the globe. It has become a reference point: for simplicity executed, its A-Z of nose-to-tail-eating, and frankly if you haven’t eaten there then you’re frivolously shunned from circles and made to stand in the corner with PETA. Reading the menu you’re enticed immediately: pea and pig’s ear soup, rolled pig’s spleen, duck’s neck terrine. The descriptions roll off like prayer. It goes without saying that all are unusual delights, missing from the majority of restaurant menus across the land, and because of this omission often suffer a lack of flavour and exercising the variety of textures that can be found in a healthy organ or off-cut. Henderson’s belief is both simple and respectful: “‘Nose to Tail Eating’ means it would be disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole beast.” And I’m with him. Let me explore and smack my lips around pork belly, wrap tongue around tongue, chew the heart, puncture a lung, and snap a crispy pig’s tail. All eulogies are correct, the Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad is food to love. Four sawn-off bones contain hot jellied marrow for you to spread on toast, along with a sprinkling of coarse salt and chopped parsley. It’s warm and rich and fun to assemble. The marrow is grilled to leave a burnt surface that you can crack with a spoon or sharp implement. It’s no nonsense and all the better for it. Straightforward ingredients present my main too: ox heart & chips. Nowadays you’re used to reading plate descriptions that take you off the page and contain so many characterisations that you’re baffled as to exactly what it is you’ve just sent for. This elementary listing informs me of exactly what it is I want to know: I’m expecting ox heart (yep, the beating pulse and lifeline from the beast itself – flappy ventricles and all) with chips. Simply, chips. And it was fantastic. A single gulls’ egg was one of the finest orbs I’ve had the pleasure of popping into my gob, and I’ve tasted many an egg, from all the Scotch varieties, plus quail to duck to Ostrich. It was a true gastronomic delicacy served at the beginning of season with celery salt. Pushed out from the tight backside of the black-headed gull, these eggs are rare, creamy in texture and of a fine size. For all the agonising heavy breathing and constipation the black-headed gull endured, I must say, she’s some sport and I honour her. A bottle of Minervois was good, an appellation for distinctive red wines from the western Languedoc and recommended by a friend. St. John is great fun. Even better when inebriated. Better still with toffee pudding, and tipped over the edge by the warm Madeleines – the best I’ve tasted! Fresh and doughy, melt-in-the-mouth, cushion shells. I now crave them every day. It’s torture.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 1.0

Value: 2.0

Kat V. 24 January 2011

I have thought about reviewing this restaurant for some months now and decided to do it finally for the most awful experience I had. I saw the mice running out from the kitchen while eating… Yes, not mouse, not one, but two different during the whole meal. Needless to say I didnt have much appetite after that. But since it was an anniversary surprise dinner in October 2010 organised by my boyfriend, I did not raise an alarm. I ve grown up in country- side, so seeing mice does not freak me out per se, but seeing them while eating is so very disgusting. I have not felt like being back. Ever. Although before that occasion I had been in St John' s couple of times since the food is indeed very good. You can question how Michelin star restaurant can have such a pale, cold and at times even dirty decor, but still go and enjoy the food. But Michelin star restaurant with mice running around… well, no comments really!

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 4.0

Richard E. platinum reviewer 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.

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