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Nov 26, 2012 07:24 AM

Questions about St. John bread and wine

Just want to check if the feasting menu on the website is all they do on sundays, or do they also do a la carte? Also, does anyone know if i could get in and out in about an hour? Last but not least is there foie gras?

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  1. I haven't been on a Sunday for a while but my understanding was that feasting is only for large groups of 8 or more. There is generally a staggered menu but by lunchtime there is a normal ALC to order.

    You do get foie gras at St John but like anything else it rotates on and off the menu.

    10 Replies
      1. re: muushupork

        If you want to eat three courses ALC you are going to be pushed to walk in and walk out in an hour I think but at Bread and Wine dishes get brought to the table often together for sharing and if you tell them you need to be out they will do their very best and will tell you which dishes not to eat e.g. madeleines.

        Service is very good there but it might end up being a bit of a rush - can you not go earlier and give yourself 80-90 mins?

        1. re: ManInTransit

          The earliest reservation i could get was 6pm but i believe they open at 5pm on sundays and i was thinking we could just show up earlier.

          1. re: muushupork

            I'm sure if you let them know you are in a hurry they will do their best to accommodate. As the dishes lend themselves to sharing you could ask to bring them out at the same time or stagger them a bit.

            1. re: muushupork

              I would give them a call or email - let them know you have to be out at 7 and ask if you can come early for your reservation. I'm sure they will be accommodating and I'd say it would be a significantly better experience if you can make it 90 mins rather than an hour.

                1. re: muushupork

                  020 3301 8069 -- why speculate when you can get an answer direct from the horses mouth?

                  1. re: brokentelephone

                    Because I live in the US and don't have ready access to a phone that can dial internationally.

                    1. re: muushupork

                      they're great at responding to email (at least have been in the past).

                      1. re: sundeck sue

                        We ended up not keeping the res. The earliest they would take was 6pm and we wouldnt have been able to enjoy it properly. We decided to go to the hawksmoor so I can have a Sunday roast and my gf can have some scallops and a good pudding . We got a res at noon so we can enjoy and then maybe go check out Greenwich Park/Observatory before the Jack the Ripper walk.

      2. I can't quite figure out the St. John website. Is Smithfield Bar & Restaurant the notable one when someone says to go to "St. John"?

        If so, this is the menu ("Sample bar menu")? Looks pretty bare.

        25 Replies
        1. re: deepfry7

          Smithfield is the flagship - you can book in the main restaurant or you can drop into the bar for a drink and a snack. That is the bar menu and it is quite short (often longer in practice) but it's the sort of place you grab a bite on the way home, if you want a dinner then book the main Smithfield restaurant or Bread and Wine.

          1. re: deepfry7

            deepfry7, based on your posting history, it looks like you might be in the US. St. John's regular menus (ie, not the bar menu) are only posted on their website during certain hours each day. If you've been visiting the website in the middle of the night London time, all you'll find is the sample bar menu. Not sure about the exact times the regular menus are posted, but the lunch menu for today is currently available (7:15 am US Eastern time). Took us almost a week to figure this out when we were researching restaurants!

            1. re: msiangal

              You guys are awesome - nice digging in. I've visited my fair share of restaurant websites and I've never seen one taken down on certain hours (like Per Se in NYC will just have a date on their menu so you know it's from the day before).

              That's why I got confused - I was like this can't be the menu for a world famous restaurant. Ha!

              If I'm going solo and can't get a reservation, does anyone know if I can grab a seat at the bar and choose from the full menu?

              1. re: deepfry7

                There's a bar area before you enter the restaurant proper.
                Not sure if you can get the full menu but if you're on your own there's a good chance. They're very accommodating.Last time I went the sponge pudding came with cream which I queried as surely it should be custard. They knocked me up some of the best custard I've ever had.

                1. re: Paprikaboy

                  Great - thanks Paprikaboy. I'll try my luck.

                  1. re: deepfry7

                    I'm not 100% but personally I wouldn't bank on them serving you restaurants mains in the bar. Because the menu changes daily I've often eaten in the restaurant and things start running out by 9pm, you might get something but you could definitely miss out on the experience.

                    I'd call them for a table for one and I'm sure they will oblige, or if not go to Bread and Wine which is more informal but will give you a proper taste of St John that the bar menu won't.

                2. re: deepfry7

                  There's an interesting comment - "world famous restaurant".

                  Is St John really "world famous"? I mean, it rarely gets a mention in UK foody terms. And, with a score of 5, it doesn't reach the Top 50 in the Good Food Guide. If it is world famous, is it justified?

                  1. re: Harters

                    John - it was in the worlds Top 50 from 2003 to 2011, and is still in the Top 100. I guess the Top 50 is far better known internationally than the GFG. I would also dispute "it rarely gets a mention in UK foods terms" as Fergus seems to almost be deified in many circles. The alumni of St John have gone on to many restaurants, and being ex-St John is a badge of honour.

                    I would also say Fergus is credited as being one of the key movers in the Brit Gastro Pub renaissance from his early days at the French House - I suspect many of your beloved North Western pubs would still be serving Scampi in a basket, Chicken Kiev, and a good steak with mushrooms, tomato and a nice bit of parsley.

                    I also understand he has influenced many other countries, I ate St John like food in Gastro Pubs in both Miami (Pubbelly) and Chicago (Au Cheval) recently and also in HK - I suspect he is responsible for the ubiquity of bone marrow on toast.

                    So I defend their global reputation but I must say on four or five visits I have never had a meal good enough to prompt my return (my many visits are because its a friend's favourite)...'

                    1. re: PhilD

                      I agree re foodie terms, I also agree that while I've had about 6 pleasant meals there I've never had a mind-blowing one, even from the feasting menu.

                      There have been razor clam, bacon and spleen, rabbit and chicken dishes which have been uncredible but two of those were at bread and wine.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        "I guess the Top 50 is far better known internationally than the GFG"

                        Although not necessarily as reliable.

                        One is compiled by the votes of a tiny number of the worlds food elite and, every year, produces more contraversy than the Michelin awards. While the other is compiled with the help of hundreds of ordinary British diners. I know which I'd trust more.

                        I'm obliged for your coments, and those of others, that Fergus has, indeed, been influential on the food scene in America. No doubt accounts for why it is so often on the lists of American tourists posting to this board. It's the similar food tourism that produces the San Pellegrino results.

                        If I interpret correctly what both you and MiT are saying is that, whilst St John may indeed be "world famous", your own several eatng experiences havnt actually lived up to a world class reputation.

                        1. re: Harters

                          Personally I think all the guides have their flaws and I try and operate a sort of venn diagram approach to all of them.

                          I think St John's reputation, as Phil implies, stems more from the incredible impact it has had on worldwide food culture, an impact out of all proportion to the actual experience that you have there.

                          1. re: Harters

                            John - isn't the difference in the guides is that the GFG is in effect "crowd sourced" whilst the Top 50 is "expert sourced". Both approached have benefits and faults. The GFG has fewer extremes as a result of the averaging of the crowd, the Top 50 is quirkier and more idiosyncratic. Both have their uses but you need to understand their limitations - as MT says it's best to triangulate. If I remember correctly even your trusty GFG as led you astray in the past.

                            My music analogy would be the GFG is like the "Top 40" - popular but safe. Whilst the Top 50 is a bit like the old NME charts of the late '70's - very Indy, very punk, very refreshing, and very good (I show my age - and my musical taste).

                            1. re: PhilD

                              The GFG has a double approach. It uses diner feedback but its scores are based on a professional inspection.

                              As you say, the Top 50 is quirkier. It's the nature of the voting system which requires judges to have eaten outside their own region. means they are going to travel to the new , buzz places and not be returning to places they've been before. There was a place in South Africa that, over the last 4 years has been at aorund 40, 12, 85 and completely out of the 100.

                              As for the GFG being "safe", their current best restaurant in the country is L'Enclume. Not safe, IMO.

                              Agree one needs to understand what you're buying into with anything that invloves recommendations for eating.

                            2. re: Harters

                              John - I would also say St Ferg has also influenced nearly all the British pub chefs not just our US cousins. And how can you not have enormous respect for a man who has resurrected Welsh Rarebit and put Eccles Cakes and Lancashire cheese on his dessert menu....?

                              1. re: PhilD

                                The Welsh Rarebit at St. John's is amazing. I was less impressed by the Eccles Cake.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Ha, I didn't think my casual passing of "world famous" would be that controversial.

                                  He's mentioned by many famous chefs here in the US, hence the phrasing. Anyone saying "nose-to-tail" cooking immediately thinks Fergus Henderson.

                                  Thanks for all the feedback. Hopefully will squeeze in a lunch or something there.

                                  1. re: deepfry7

                                    Its not controversial its just like a meal with good company and having a good debate over the second bottle of red......

                                    1. re: PhilD

                                      Spot on, Phil. If we can't have a good discussion about food on a food discussion board........

                                      I suppose, from my point of view, that the more that restaurants in the country serve up traditional dishes, the less reason I have to visit St John when I visit the capital. I'm thinking of folk like Nigel Haworth, who has been "at it" at Northcote since the 1980s. And I've always reckoned the driver of the traditional dishes and the Modern Brit style was Gary Rhodes - starting in Taunton and then, very much so, at the Greenhouse in London - predating Fergus opening St John by some years.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        John - I think the "revolution" had many fathers. Nigel in '89 at Northcote, The Eagle in '91 as the first gastro pub, Rhodes in 1990 at the Glasshouse (but isn't he a bit cheffy with all dem stars?) and St Ferg at landing at the French House in '92.

                                        What I really liked about St John when I first went there was they served real bitter in pints - I recall it was Harvey's from Lewes.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          Phil - slightly at a tangent to the St John discussion. As you know, I don't drink alcohol these days (but remain envious of those who do). I reckon that a definition of the "gastropub" should be a place that cares as much about its beer as it does about its food.

                              2. re: PhilD

                                Oh yes - bone marrow on toast: I first had that at St John's (, and it definitely came into my mind when I had that in Singapore's Brasserie Gavroche, albeit a more refined version(

                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  First time I had bone marrow on toast was about 10 years back - little bistro in Calais - came as a garnish to a now forgotten beef dish.

                                2. re: PhilD

                                  This discussion brought back a scene I haven't thought about in years. My father's family loved bone marrow and treated it as a delicacy. But I don't think they ever served it on toast. :-)

                                3. re: Harters

                                  +1 PhilD. I'd say it's frequently mentioned in UK foodie terms - I'm shocked that that would be disputed. And it's highly influential - there's a direct line from it to places like The Spotted Pig and The Breslin in New York, which bloomed the Gastropub trend there.

                                  1. re: dcfly1

                                    +1 more. I have seen the influence of St John in many places, far and near....and have witnessed the affection and esteem Fergus holds amid chefs - particularly in the elevation of nose-to-tail eating. And I noted recently the big names in the industry stateside....guys like Thomas Keller and Danny Meyer...all make a bee-line for St.John on their whistlestop tours.

                          2. Today's lunch menu at St John (Smithfield)

                            Gull's Egg (each) 8.00
                            Globe Artichoke & Vinaigrette 7.50
                            Grilled Mackerel & Seabeet 7.20
                            Rabbit Offal & Chicory 7.30
                            Smoked Sprats, Cucumber & Dill 6.50
                            Asparagus & Hot Butter 8.00
                            Octopus, Chickpea & Red Onion 8.50
                            Ox Tongue, Green Beans & Pickled Walnut 7.60
                            Anchovy, Tomato & Little Gem 7.20
                            Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad 7.20
                            Roast Middlewhite & Braised Carrots 24.30
                            Pigeon & Courgettes 17.00
                            Skate, Bread & Capers 18.50
                            Beetroot & Goat's Curd 13.80
                            Lamb Sweetbreads, Peas & Bacon 17.20
                            Black Bream, Fennel & Green Sauce 18.70
                            Suckling Kid Faggots & Broad Beans 17.50
                            Devilled Kidneys on Toast 15.20
                            New Potatoes 4.00 Greens 3.70
                            Green Salad 4.60 Welsh Rarebit 5.20
                            Eccles Cake & Lancashire Cheese 6.90
                            Chocolate Pot & Golden Syrup Biscuit 7.50
                            Apricot & Almond Tart 7.20
                            Raspberry Trifle 7.20
                            Strawberry Eton Mess 7.20
                            Bread Pudding & Butterscotch Sauce (for two) 13.20
                            Baked Lemon Custard 7.20
                            Pistachio Ice Cream 7.00
                            Apple Sorbet & Polish Vodka 6.90
                            Madeleines half dozen (fifteen minutes) 4.20
                            Madeleines one dozen (fifteen minutes) 8.00
                            Cheese 9.60

                            Address details
                            St John Smithfield
                            26 St. John Street
                            London, EC1M 4AY T
                            Tel: +44 20 7251 0848

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: klyeoh

                              Klyeoh - for a moment I thought that's what you ate....! Even for you it seemed extreme.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                LOL! I wish - but St John's menu always seemed so tempting though.

                            2. Just go and look at the menu on the wall at the bar area ..sit down and enjoy the food and the buzz. My favourite place in all of London.Even a late night glass of wine.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rcfinch

                                Rcfinch - St John Bread & Wine doesn't have a bar area - I think you mean St John