Well. Its official. I am finally an adult. Why, might you ask, did I come to this conclusion this week… being that I have been in my 20’s for a bit, and have been working and (mostly – love you pops!) self-sufficient for the past few years?
Well…. because I finally picked, went to, and absolutely fell into food bliss by reserving, eating at, and loving a real food enthusiast dinner. In London (my favorite city of all time!) at a cult classic restaurant that was hugely influential in turning British people, and rest of the culinary world for that matter, back onto classic, amazing, british fair: The St. John Restaurant, in Clerkenwell, London.
A few years back I lived near the St. John, merely blocks away in truth – at CITY University, and I would pass the restaurant – that this year was a part of the top 50 restaurant list of the world – without a thought of its importance, or more on topic, what I was missing! My lowly student status (and as it goes without saying, limited funds) made Wagamama and other places more of my happening spots. Boy, do I wish I was as knowledgeable and utterly engrossed in the amazing thing that is the food enthusiast culture back then as I am now. However… it might have damaged that little flimsy wallet I had in my youngster then quite substantially….
A few weeks before my most recent trip to Britain, I decided to make my adulthood jump complete by making that fateful reservation for the Brit and I to do dinner there. I then promptly took a look at the daily changing menu, and was instantly excited not only by the various head to tail meat selection and seasonal vegetable dishes on offer, but I also was amazed that, well, it was quite a steal in monetary terms to be able to eat the food of such an important chef without breaking my bank, unlike what would happen at some of London’s other restaurant bigwigs establishments.
The wine list was short, but has some great affordable picks on there(and big contenders for the practiced wine and food enthusiast crowd), and we went with a lovely Cote du Rhone. They also have a few house wines that are produced for St. John, and have it’s lovely little piggy on the label to boot.
If you are not familiar with St. John and its style of cooking, they represent traditional amazing nose to tail British dining, executed extremely well, and done with a seasonal and local flare. Amazing. Elegant. Delicious.
As I said before, the menu changes daily and provides a trim section of appetizers and small meals, 7 or so mains, a few desserts, and a lovely cheese board focused on English legends. If one fancies, they could eat all three meals here in its quaint bar, whether it be a bacon butty for breakkies, a lovely soup and their house-made bread for lunch, and an unbelievable dinner. We, however just went for dinner.
The style and presentation of the food match the decor of the restaurant – simple, bright, and elegant. After quickly deciding to have delicate, fresh English peas in the Pod (that were crisp, bright, and tasted of the fast approaching summer), we chose to start with a menu staple – Roasted Marrow with Grilled Bread and Parsley Salad, and were not disappointed. If it were possible to purchase such a thing as creamy, smooth, and lightly salted meat butter, this would be it. We even were given special knives to make sure we could grab every last bit of marrow!
Our other selections stuck to the restaurant’s specialties (not that there was anything on the menu that would disappoint). Braised Ox-Heart with Beets and their tops came casually plated. The beets shined with freshness, were coarsely cut with their tops and revealed a beautiful caramelized crust that led to a tender, sweet interior. The ox-heart was quite the succulent new territory to trot. Imagine eating the most flavorsome, tender steak with light marbling and a texture that is both crisp and perfectly tender, with a reduced gravy that could bring tears to any school grandmother’s guys, and you will know where I am coming from.
Besides the obvious necessity to eat meat of such a high quality as St. John carries a few hundred yards from one of the best butchery centers around, Smithfield’s Market, one cannot eat such lip-smackingly traditional food without including some fowl. Our Pigeon Braised with Peas definitely completed out experience. Tender, gamey (but only ever so lightly), and cooked to a medium-well perfection – it melted in your mouth and was even better when paired with the dainty, freshly shelled english peas, mint, and light, brothy, sweet and salty reduction of wine in which it had been bathed. MMM!
Unfortunately, after such delicious meals(and not being able to resist St. John’s amazing house baked sourdough levian!) we decided to part without trying their famous Eccles Cakes. I can honestly say, however, I cannot wait to return to try them, and anything else Mr. Henderson has on his ever-changing and beautiful menu for that matter.