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Sep 15, 2011 10:27 PM

St John Bar&Restaurant or Bread&Wine [London]


We have one meal in London and are trying to decide between the two St John locations. Wanted to hear some feedback from chowhounders who've dined at both and what you think? Which would you recommend to visting guests? (In our case as family of four, all serious foodies between 20+ to 50+)

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  1. To me, Bread and Wine is more casual and I prefer it - but if its all about the food, then you want the Restaurant.

    1. I think it's fair to say that you can't go wrong - explore the menus online and you'll see that they are very similar. There's no major difference in style or food.
      Like Mr Gimlet I personally prefer Bread and Wine - it's more relaxed and informal, the plates come out when they're ready and it's structured so that you're almost expected to swap plates around and try each others' food.

      I think though that if it's just one meal in London and you're serious foodies you should go for the main restaurant as it's a bit more of an event, the menu will be slightly bigger and I think I'm right in saying you're more likely to get blockbuster dishes like Grouse there.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ManInTransit

        i definitley prefer the food at bread and wine, its a little bit more interesting... i wouldnt say theres a major difference, but theres a definitely a difference. the chefs are allowed to get slightly more creative at b&w

        1. re: t_g

          horribly late reply! took everyone's advice and we're going for b&w. Thanks very much for the unequivocal answer, I think my brother might have been scheming to fit both into one day like what he did with Fat Duck and Hinds Head... Looking forward to it now come mid Nov!

          Fat Duck
          High St, Bray, Windsor and Maidenhead SL6 2, GB

          1. re: yeong

            I hope you have a great time - I really wouldn't do both in a day though! They are far more similar than Heston's places.

      2. i like both...but my preference is for the Bar& others have said, you can't go wrong...but i like the space better at the St. John location, with it's irregular bar area and the main dining room up a couple me, the rows of tables and the room at Bread and Wine feels too boxy and uniform, like a high school cafeteria......

        it should be noted also that at the St. John one, there are two dining options: the main dining room where reservations are almost always needed...and the bar area, which has a delicious though much more limited menu and is open seating...

        St. John
        26 St John Street, London EC1M 4AY, GB

        5 Replies
        1. re: Simon

          And what are the thoughts on the new St John Hotel? How does it compare and contrast to these two? If nothing else it is very central.

          The good news for Yeong's brother is the serve breakfast so he can do all three in a day.

          1. re: PhilD

            I've had breakfast their and it was excellent. I like the space and the service. For me, the breads alone are worth a journey.

            1. re: PhilD

              Hey Phil...alas, no thoughts on the hotel -- i moved back to NYC :)

              1. re: PhilD

                3 meals in the St John's... that would be something to attempt! It shall have to wait though, bBetween the eating over Paris and London, I have visions of us four staggering around the restaurants... appreciate the thought though!

                1. re: PhilD

                  Our last time in London (May of this year) my husband and I ate dinner @ B&W and the hotel; and he ate @ St. John Restaurant--and the hotel dinner won top honors. All delicious, of course. But the hotel meal transcendent!

                  St. John
                  26 St John Street, London EC1M 4AY, GB

              2. i've not eaten at the hotel, but I think the food is better at B&W than the original restaurant

                4 Replies
                  1. re: Simon

                    i agree w/ davew666, i just find the food more interesting at b&w

                    1. re: Simon

                      Have eaten at "restaurant" three times. First was a banquet, with a whole suckling pig. It was pretty disappointing for many reasons.

                      The next two times I can't actually remember anything we ate, apart from two things. One is the bone marrow starter, because I love bone marrow and rarely see it on a menu. It's quite good here. the other is a grouse which was so chronically undercooked that it was a complete joke. It was cooked literally 1cm into the breast, inside this was fridge cold. I don't mind rare food but this was way, way off the mark. I sent it back and it returned 10 minutes later still undercooked.

                      B&W has a generally higher standard of cooking, plus I like the smaller portions so I can try more different things. There are plenty of dishes I can remember from my many times eating there.

                      1. re: davew666

                        That grouse sounds very grim indeed :) for a few months i used to go to St John at least once/week but i usually ate in the pub area, but because i was a regular and a local (i lived 100 yards north) they often let me order main dining room dishes in the pub if they had enough to spare...i loved their wine and beer selections and the assymetrical layout of the place and nice staff...i only ate in the main room once, with out of town guests and we loved it...sorry u had some poor experiences. I do like Bread and Wine too, just not a fan of the space

                  2. We visited B&W while in London and had a fantastic meal, although I can't compare it to its sisters. I would warn those thinking of dining there to understand that, (1) the menu is eclectic; (2) the small plates at lunch & dinner are prepared for sharing; (3) the selections are sent from the kitchen in the order prepared (i.e., no particular order). It's a grazing experience, although some of the dishes are main sized and requests can be put in to have it organized like a traditional meal. This would defeat the concept in my opinion! Although the menu is posted outside, no fewer than three tables of people arrived then departed without ordering after looking at the menu.

                    For the two of us at Sunday lunch, we ordered 6 oysters (absolutely divine), 2 razor clams (oysters and clams priced "per piece"), nettles and ham soup, and brown crab on toast with a lovely daub of eggy mayo on the side. After that, the husband wanted the oxtail with mash, which was main sized and I was ready for the bay leaf ice cream. We inquired if he could get a 1/2 order of the oxtails, to which the server responded that owner and creator Fergus Henderson does not "muck about" with his menu in that manner and is not usually amenable to menu modifications. A few minutes later, he returned from the kitchen with a smile and said they would serve a half order at half the price. Whether Henderson was actually in that kitchen I'm not sure, because I had my back to the open kitchen and it is impolite to stare in any event in England! But we were delighted and grateful for the accommodation and the dish was stunning. The bay leaf ice cream was a sweet bowl of homey fall flavor that actually made me involuntarily moan.

                    See photos posted under Restaurant Name.

                    Altogether our most memorable meal, perhaps ever.

                    St. John Bread and Wine
                    94-96 Commercial Street, London E1 6LZ, GB

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: Simon

                        Thank you, Simon. On the same Sunday we visited Christ Church Spitalfields, just a block or two down. The church bells were lovely as were the people inside. Only in England do we get to hear the peal of the church bells with such grandeur!