I enjoy eating the prime cuts of meat as well as the next carnivorous human being, but I think there is also a lot to be said for the less popular parts of the animal, lamb neck is one of my favourite parts of the sheep and I also have a soft spot for offal. So on my latest trip up to London, I decided that it would probably be an eye-opener to eat at St John Restaurant, which under the inspiration and guidance of Fergus Henderson has become a necessary pilgrimage for the lover of lesser seen cuts of meat, and those like me who are passionate for offal.
The restaurant is close to the Smithfield Market (the largest wholesale meat market in the UK) and was once a former bacon smoke-house. The menu changes daily and is created depending on what is available and in season. Pig Ears, Duck Hearts and Roasted Bone Marrow are regularly seen on the menu and if you are lucky and visit at the right time of the year, you may even get the chance to order Squirrel. The far from squeamish chef and noted food writer, Anthony Bourdain has called this his favourite restaurant. However, it’s not all extreme eating as they always serve some of the better known cuts of meat too.
Upon arrival we were shown our seats, inside it was very white… everywhere! It did give the impression of being exceptionally clean though. We were given the menu and instantly found several dishes jumping out at me.
I decided to go for the Rabbit Offal & Dandelion, while my girlfriend choose the Grilled Squid, Cucumber & Samphire. The Rabbit Offal included the heart, liver and kidney and was so fresh it was sweet. The dandelion was deliciously bitter and went well with the mustardy dressing.
The Grilled Squid was equally as good, fresh as a daisy and cooked to perfection with a savoury background flavour from the charred edges. The samphire gave a nutty edge and the cucumber gave texture to the dish.
For mains we both went with Pigeon & Carrots, along with a side dish of Jersey Royals and Greens. Once again the Pigeon was done just as we like it, pink and juicy. The Jersey Royals were the biggest ones I had ever seen and quite simply could have easily been mistaken for a small elephant, to the point I wondered if they were actually Jersey Royals, they were so big. But they were!! There was great flavour to the potato and its skin and both veg were simply served with a good amount of butter. Perfection!
After demolishing the pigeon down to its bones and those huge potatoes, I was wondering if there would be room for puddings. But the choice was too tempting, so I got my brain to negotiate some space with my stomach and didn’t hesitating in ordering.
I went for what sounded quite light, the Elderflower Moonshine with Gooseberries, but my girlfriend couldn’t resist the Chocolate & Pistachio Terrine. The Elderflower Moonshine was Egg Whites suspended in either gelatine or agar, flavoured with a boozy Elderflower concoction which the gently softened Gooseberries cut through perfectly. The Terrine was rich, but not heavy and disappeared as swiftly as the waiter served it.
The food was excellent and the service was professional and friendly. I would definitely go back as there were several dishes on the menu that I wanted to try. Big thumbs up to Fergus and his team!
St John Restaurant, 26 St John Street, London EC1M 4AY
Tel: 0207 251 0848