Historical version 24 of St John, EC1M 4AY
- 020 7251 0848
- 26 St John Street, EC1M 4AY
- noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm Mon-Sat; 1-3pm Sun (restaurant) / 11am-11pm Mon-Fri; 6pm-11pm Sat; noon-5pm Sun (bar)
St John specialise in meat, meat, and more meat; and especially the parts of it that aren't usually eaten: tripe, sweetbreads, tongue, heart, and their signature dish of roast bone marrow served with parsley salad and toast. They're also quite keen on snails.
They offer a "feasting menu" option for large groups; you do need to book in advance, and select from a limited menu, but this gives you the chance to order an entire roast suckling pig, which will be brought in whole and carved in front of you. A pig serves 1416 people and costs £320 (as of March 2008), payable in advance.
Kat and Rick thoroughly enjoyed their visit in April 2009. We started with octopus (wonderful, not at all chewy or rubbery, huge portion) and pig spleen with bacon (interesting but underwhelming), and opted for mains of roast lamb with turnips (melt-in-the-mouth) and pigeon with lentils (excellent). The waiter recommended we order a side of greens, which suited our dishes well. The desserts are also recommended - the lovely chocolate mousse had the texture of a brownie on the outside, but was soft in the middle; the Eccles cake with Lancashire cheese (£6.40) went down very well too. On Ewan's visit shortly after, this pudding was a particular highlight photo, the cake crusty but with a ginger kick and the dried fruit balanced by the creamy texture of the cheese, of which there was almost too much, but that's hardly a criticism.
Vegetarians are catered for, but there's generally never more than one vegetarian option as a main on the menu (which changes daily and can be viewed on their website); on Ewan's April 2009 lunchtime visit, this was lentils with goat's curd (£13.50) photo, and if the lentils were less than spectacular, the curd was lovely, fluffy but filling. On other occasions, the option might just as easily be courgettes with butter beans, or fennel with Berkswell (a kind of cheese).
Other dishes Ewan and his friend sampled were a fantastic nettle soup to start (£6) photo, not at all stingy in the generous serving, creamy without being too filling, so setting up the other courses well. My friend had the brown shrimp with white cabbage (£7.20) photo, which was certainly liked but not nearly as much as her main, the ox heart with beetroot and horseradish (£15) photo, cut thinly and an order above the same dish as tried elsewhere. Apart from the fine Eccles cake, an excellent baked cheesecake (£6.90) was offset by a coating of the sharply alcoholic liqueur de coing, derived from quince fruit photo.
Kake has visited several times, and never been disappointed. Dishes I've enjoyed in the past include Puy lentils and Swiss chard (a side dish), and chickpeas with sausage and snails (fantastic: the chickpeas were cooked right; the sausage was very meaty; the broth was rich and well-spiced; the slice of bread I found in the bottom of the dish was a very good sourdough; and the snails were large and moist and well worth eating). It should be noted though that I've not been there since July 2006 and word on the interweb is that standards may be slipping.
Starters cost around £68, main courses around £1422, side dishes around £35 (and some of the main courses are designed to need side dishes too), and desserts around £47.
There is additionally, a bar area in the courtyard with some small table seating around the edges and along the entry corridor, which gets predictably crowded in the evenings after work. There are draught beers available including Meantime, as well as three handpulls for ale -- Wadworth 6X and Black Sheep were on during an April 2009 visit, with the other off. There is also a bakery stand, with breads and cakes available to take away.
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