St John, 26 St John Street, London, EC1M 4AY; Tel. 020 7251 0848, tube: Barbican, Farringdon www.stjohnrestaurant.co.uk
Friday, March 02, 2007
Every time I go to St John, I am disappointed that squirrel is not on the menu. But it gives me a good excuse to keep coming back. This time the restaurant was fully booked, so we grabbed a wooden table in the cosy, informal bar. I've always been more impressed with starters than main courses here, so was happy to see that most of my favourites were chalked up on the blackboard bar menu. We embraced Fergus Henderson's concept of nose-to-tail eating with some bone marrow, parsley, onions and capers on toast. This is the sort of dish I'd normally squeem away from, but having once tried a mouthful of someone else's I was immediately won over by its silky, fatty richness. Then there was the mustrady Welsh rarebit, the gloriously fishy hunk of anchovy toast and finally a salad of bitter dandelion leaves and sweet shallots. I will admit the last dish left me convinced that dandelions are best used for blowing off the pollen when their heads go all big and white -- rather than for eating. But my companion happily wolfed it down, saying the bitterness was remeniscent of chicory. We washed the feast down with a couple of big bottles grand cru wheat beer from a wide selection of Meantime brews on offer. The service was charming, the tables around us were as taken with the food as we were and the bill came to a very reasonable £40.