A meal at St Barts starts with a wax-sealed envelope. Within are the 15 courses soon to be embarked upon, each showcasing two key ingredients. We opt to leave the menu as a surprise, blindly putting our faith in the all-star trio who brought us Nest and Fenn. Instead of browsing the line-up, we soak in the space over crisp pickled fennel martinis. Stone floors, candlelight and views of the neighbouring church create a monastic atmosphere. An atmosphere that is only augmented by our first dish: humble but gloriously warming beef broth in an unglazed cup.
While this may all sound a little too solemn, what follows is anything but. Rather than Gregorian chants, the speakers play upbeat neo-soul. Rather than austere, the staff are convivial. And, rather than ascetic, the food is lavish. What’s more, the two key ingredient rule is more of a suggestion. An ‘East End seafood cocktail’, for example, is a brilliant melting pot of whelks, smoked fish, oyster mayo and caviar. When the rule is followed more religiously, as is the case with a goat’s cheese and onion tart, the result is a little one-note (or rather, two-note).
Soon after the canapes, we are led through the space to the main dining room, coming to rest at a table hand-carved from London’s fallen trees. At the room's centre lies a stone altar filled with various bottles, from which circling sommeliers preach their liquid gospel. Here, there is more rhythm to the menu. A seared duck breast with lingonberries and granola, in particular, is a vibrant masterpiece. But, when joined by a hybrid of Pinot Noir and skin-contact Pinot Gris, it is utterly mesmerising. The same can be said for the desserts, with preserved plum, plum stone ice cream and a semi-sweet Jurançon harmonising perfectly.
A visit to Nest or Fenn is always a delight. The £200 pilgrimage to St Barts, however, is a religious experience.