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May 10, 2001 04:35 AM

St John - Great British Food

  • s

I had not been to St John's in a long time, so at short notice, went last night. I am delighted to say that it remains as dependable as it has been since it opened some 5(?) yrs ago. The cooking is spectacular, the ingredients equally so and the service, amiably dippy. It's real attraction for me after a month of eating ( very well, I must admit ) stateside was to have something of incredible simplicity, prepared simply.

Starter of Roast Marrowbone was fatty and smooth. The salad of pickled capers cut through the richness perfectly. Another starter of whole spider crab served with mayo was good, but as always with these things did not repay the herculean efforts to get to the flesh within.

Main courses of smoked eel,bacon and mash and a Gloucester Old Spot Pork chop were really delicious. The pork was probably the best I have had in 10 years. They dry cure the meat, so it has a hint of brine which the roasting really brings out. The eel was so subtly smoked it was a revelation. Side dishes of braised butterbeans, sweet small jersey royals and spring greens made me realise how much better it was when we all ate seasonally.

Pudding, as ever an unecessary frippery, was a rhubarb crumble with marmalade ice cream.

A bottle of Brandol and glasses of Quetch and Vielle prune brought the bill to £100 for two.

If anyone wants to know what truly great "British" food is like, then they should try this place

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  1. By coincidence, I was in the bar at St John with my wife the day before. We had been to Maison Novelli for a cheapish dinner useing the Independent offer.

    A very impressive meal by the way, excellent service but the building is looking a bit shabby and doesn't really do justice to the food. Novelli should have somewhere like Petrus and then the stars would come I am sure.

    I quite like the St John bar, but disliked the poxy wine glasses, has Fergus been collecting Esso vouchers or something? We took some biscuits and Eccles Cakes home from the bakery, which were excellent. The bread looked fantastic as well. I liked the sound of the menu but wondered if was all a bit too simple.

    By the way, I assume that the leg of kid at £64.00 was for four people, but the menu didn't say, and kids aren't that big are they?

    3 Replies
    1. re: andy Lynes
      Judy Leibovitch

      What is an Eccles cake, please? I was told once and can't remember.

      1. re: Judy Leibovitch
        Simon Majumdar

        Stewed currants in a flaky pastry ( made with suet ) casing

        Quite wonderful with tea and equally nice with sharp cheese ( as served at St John btw ) and a glass of port

        They originate in Lancashire where the cold a rain predicate a certain amount of pleasing stodge

      2. re: andy Lynes
        Simon Majumdar

        I agree on the wine glasses. Very cheap and tacky. The bread and bakeries are fantastic. They have a really superb treacle pudding which you can take home with you.

        The simplicity of the food is its real triumph. After much chowing on pan fried this on a bed of that with a reduction of the other over the last few weeks, to have something this well prepared using sensational ingredients but doing little to them was a real blessing. Isn't that what British food is all about?

        The food at Novelli's is terrific, but that whole place reeks of faded former glory. Such a shame. I think he need to get over the collapse of his mini-empire , give up having his name above the door and go and cook as a ( well paid ) hired hand somewhere. maybe even as part of the renaissance of hotel restaurants in London. It didn't do John Burton race any harm.