Salivation: St John Bread & Wine

St Johns! A London classic. An institution. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, St Johns is a restaurant synonymous with understated, classy, high quality fare, but more subtly for its nose to tail ethos. I cannot BELIEVE it’s taken me eight years of living in London to finally get round to trying it. But with the impending doom of Coronavirus weighing heavy on my future dining prospects, I realised I could wait no longer, collared an open minded companion and off I went!

Now St John has two locations; one in Clerkenwell & the other near Spitalfields market. I plumped for the latter.

Of COURSE it was pissing down with rain & as I arrived rather sodden, was greeted with an extra large welcome mat with St John printed on it. Very lovely. Much needed. I wandered into the fairly empty white room to discover my companion had arrived before me (unsurprising, I’m always terribly late). My heels clicked softly on the wooden parquet flooring and the delicate yet solid wooden tables and chairs reminded me of an old fashioned school. We were seated at one by the wall which had coat hooks the whole way along. Trés convenient. I hung up my ski coat & clocked that the table already had water, bread & butter.

Dying to get stuck in, I quickly nipped to the loos downstairs to wash my hands and was delighted to be greeted with my favourite Aesop products in the white tiled room. I hurriedly dashed back up the stairs, inhaling the aroma from my hands like a complete weirdo and then demanding my companion do the same as we pored over the impressive wine menu. No descriptions other than grape variety, year & country; you will need to engage with your server should you require further info. Having made my companion wait, I decided not to starve her any longer and ordered the house white to start me off, I could always peruse the other offerings after quenching my thirst (In reality this didn’t happen as I ordered at least four more glasses because it was so goddamn delicious). The bread was a joyously sour and firm loaf but I’d have preferred it to be accompanied with salted butter rather than unsalted, being the walking heart attack that I am.

We made the decision to be as adventurous as possible, ordering only things that one or both of us had never tried before. So we started with the Kohlrabi salad & (at the waiters recommendation) the smoked cods roe. Which I have to be honest I was not remotely looking forward to but jeeeeesus this toast sized hashbrown arrived with this uber creamy, silky smooth whipped cod roe that had the lightest hint of smoke adorned with baby cress & a perfectly poached egg. MY GOD IT WAS DELIGHTFUL. So was the kohlrabi salad but it was no smoked cods roe, y’know?

Next up was the blood cake, faggots & Welsh rarebit… I told you we were being adventurous!

The blood cake was probably my standout dish surprisingly. The large black disk was topped with a fried egg and a generous squirt of brown sauce on the side and it was YUM. It was like the best fried breakfast you’d ever had all in one mouthful. Highly recommend. The fact that this dish outshone the rarebit was a testament to how good it was, which by the way arrived dripping in hot cheese and accompanied by a large bottle of Lea & Perrins. The waiter recommended scoring the toast first to allow the Worcestershire sauce to penetrate the rich bread which was excellent advice as that sharpness was needed in such a rich dish.

Finally the faggots! I was nervous about this dish but I needn’t have been. As with everything at St Johns it is all cooked so sympathetically & with such precision that anything they bring you is going to taste as good as it possibly could. Two fat golf balls of meaty fare arrived served alongside swede (love it), picked walnuts roughly puréed (never tried them before but wow they’re tangy) and a thin meaty jus. The texture of the faggots was similar to haggis but less rough & the flavour of paté. Very liver-ey in flavour but alongside the accompaniments all balanced REALLY nicely. We couldn’t finish this dish, it was very large and we wanted to sample the extensive dessert menu.

I ordered a Chanterés dessert wine of which the aroma reminded me a LOT of the wine we used to be served at church when I was growing up, but tasted like a cross between a dessert wine and a fortified wine to me. Deep honey in colour, I really enjoyed it. Now with my companion being American and having NEVER TRIED either treacle tart or trifle before we had no choice but to order both. BOY was the treacle tart rich. The pastry was SO thin, like MILIMETRES and a deep golden colour, whilst the filling was unbelievable dense. More than what you’re imagining. I could have picked it up with my fingertip without it bending and it kept sticking to my fork. Thank god it was served with sour cream to cut through the record breaking richness.

The trifle though, oh my god the TRIFLE. Have you ever heard someone get this excited about trifle before? Nah. You know why? Cause most trifles are decidedly average and this one was better than a treacle tart (literally how is that possible?) perfectly cooked rhubarb was topped with sponge that had been delicately dashed with sherry, topped with the SILKIEST RICHEST CREAM KNOWN TO MANKIND & finally adorned with toasted almond flakes that didn’t taste like toasted almond flakes they tasted like crunchy nut corn flakes and there were LOADS of them, all sugary and nutty.

GREAT restaurant, I can see why Londoners love it, I massively respect their mission of using the whole animal & if you’re feeling brave enough to branch out into eating some lesser known animal parts you will be rewarded with tastebud bliss.

£113.95 for two including drinks (but not service)

Nearest tube: Liverpool Street (it’s actually equidistant between this, Aldgate, Aldgate East & Shoreditch High Street)

St John Bread & Wine

94-96 Commercial Street

London

E1 6LZ

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