EAT - DRINK - BE MERRY
No, itís not pronounced Ďsin-juní, very definitely not, itís ĎSaint Johní. Thereís no poncey mucking about here, none at all. This is a proper place, a functional dining room with ultra functional food to match.
St John has a reputation, its ĎNose to Tail Eatingí policy is admirable, although I wasnít convinced it would be that tasty, thereís probably a reason why people donít eat that much spleen. As a nation we are extremely queasy these days, describing the St. John menu to my colleagues elicited a chorus of Ďurghí and Ďhow could youí, but I could see nothing wrong with lambs tongues, pigs head or trotters.
Using the whole animal makes a lot of sense, itís value for money, itís a good use of resources, minimises waste and lastly itís a proper tribute to an animal that is dying for my dinner. It shows respect to the animal to make full use of every part. But culturally we are trained into cuts and joints, offal has become a rarity. I have a policy of only buying cheap sausages, personally I think sausages should be made of all the left-overs, not the best bits. A sausage makes good use of all that unpalatable stuff.
So I truly buy into the idea of nose to tail eating, the question is, what does it taste like? CW and I had a starter each and we shared a third as we were so intrigued by the rolled pigís spleen and bacon, but neither of us brave enough to try it on our own. CW had roast bone marrow with parsley salad, a St John signature dish, which brought back memories of her childhood, scooping out the marrow with the end of a teaspoon (although she got a lobster pick here). I went for brown crabmeat on toast, similarly comforting, simple and lovely. The spleen was interesting, a little like liver, served with cornichons and red wine vinegar to lift the flavour. Not nearly as difficult as it sounds.
For mains CW went for rabbit saddle with peas and bacon. Tender, juicy rabbit, really well cooked, possibly the best rabbit Iíve ever tasted. On my mumís recommendation I went for chitterlings (the lower intestines of the pig) chopped and fried, served with dandelion. I truly love my mum, but I clearly donít share her palate. The meat was ever so slightly salty, a hint of gammon, which was ok, but the dandelion was bitter and it dominated the meat, what I thought worked really well was CWís peas and bacon, for me it needed some sweetness to sit against the salt. I notice the chitterlings are now a starter on the menu, served with radishes and I think better for it.
For pud, CW, sorbet and Russian vodka, me, Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese. Fab, although to Yorkshire lass CW mine made me a traitor. Lastly we couldnít resist half a dozen madeleines between us with our coffee, warm beautiful cake just out of the oven. Wonderful.
Itís a great restaurant, the philosophy is sound. It makes you think about your food. And the food is good, there were bits that I might not have liked all that much, but you need to be challenged every now and then. Iíve spent a lifetime acquiring the taste of fillet steak and lamb chops, maybe I need to spend some time acquiring the taste of spleen and chitterlings.
Check out their website, the menu is updated daily... www.stjohnrestaurant.co.uk