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26 St John Street
St 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.
Best in Farringdon
StreetSmart - London restaurants
Best in Clerkenwell + Blackfriars
London's Hot 100 Restaurants
SquareMeal 3 Stars
26 St John Street
020 7251 0848
Barbican Station 111m
Barbican Tube Station 276m
Worshipful Company of Haberdashers 271m
Mon-Sat 12N-3pm 6-11pm Sun 12.30-4pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
I went to St. John craving for a hearty meal on a typical rainy and snowy day, and I got exactly that. Their bone marrow was delicious as usual, and the lamb broth was exactly what I needed on a cold wintry day.
Food + drink: 1
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
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.
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