St. John - Bar and Restaurant

For one of the first nice meals in London, I wanted to try quintessential and quirky british food.  St. John has long been praised as one of the best restaurants in the world, and after hearing high praise from Anthony Bourdain, I knew I would be in for an experience.  Unfortunately, I could only take pictures using my phone so they don't do justice to the restaurant, but trust my words!
The setting: St. John sits unpretentiously on a side street in Clerkenwell around several bars including the popular Vinoteca wine bar.  It was built on a smokehouse and the decor is still very bare bones and rustic.  A bakery and bar sit near the entrance, where you can watch the food pass along and also sip on some excellent beers from the bar.  The restaurant in the next room is fast-paced and vibrant.  My first thought was that it reminded me of an oversized kitchen in some rich person's home.  The kitchen in the corner is open, which is a trait that I absolutely love about restaurants.  Tables are mostly communal, giving the restaurant a casual feel.  We sat down and were given this:
This will be fun!
For starters, we got the famous bone marrow and parsley salad, and the seasonal langostines.  The langostines were a must after the amazing langostines we had in barcelona that gave me the food giggles. The ones at St. John were super fresh and the meat was perfectly salty.  It's served with a ridiculous amount of mayonnaise, but I prefer to eat them plain right out of the shell.  I would give these an 8 out of 10, with my only critique being that I would have preferred them to be served hot with olive oil and sea salt.

Next came the bone marrow and parsley salad, which was unbelievably good and my personal favorite.  4 big pieces of beef bone are roasted, and served whole with a side of parsley salad and toast.  You're given a thin spoon to scrap the marrow out of the bone, smear it on the bread, and top with some parsley salad and seasoned salt.  I couldn't help but feel like the ultimate carnivore while eating this, and it was both an unfamiliar and sensational experience.

The first main we got was the braised rabbit, which was served on the bone and super tender.  Anytime I see the word braised on a menu I'm immediately drawn to it as i think it's just one of the best ways of cooking meat. The sauce that the rabbit was served with was really rich and flavorful, probably due to the nice chunks of bacon in it.  The sweet peas were a great compliment as well, I always love fresh peas.

The second main we got was the lamb sweetbread.  This was the first time I've ever had sweetbread, and I'll admit I was rather intimidated by it.  If you don't know what sweetbread is, you're probably envisioning some kind of sweet bread (duh).  Well...that's really not too far off...just substitute the word "bread" with "animal glands" such as "thymus" and "pancreas"...same thing right?  My first experience with sweetbread has taught me that 1. it's actually delicious (when cooked right of course), and 2. it does have the consistency and taste of sweet bread.  All in all, I thought it was excellent.

For dessert, our server somehow convinced us to get the "spotted dick" for 2.  Honestly, this dessert could have been for like 6 because that's how large it was.  This was the first time I've had this very traditional British dessert.  I liked the texture and flavor of it alot, but it was almost overwhelmingly sweet for me.

All in all, I was really impressed with both the vibe and food at St. John.  I'll also add that the portion sizes are pretty large for a higher end restaurant, I was definitely beyond full at the end of the meal.  It's safe to say that now full of lamb glands and spotted dick, I've been officially welcomed to Britain.
St John on Urbanspoon


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