Wednesday, August 19, 2015

For the Slightly Adventurous Minds

We were looking for a casual place to meet up with some friends, and St John Bread and Wine came to mind, for it's only a short hop away on the tube for all of us.

The restaurant - an offshoot of Fergus Henderson's Michelin-starred St John - is right across the street from the hip and trendy Spitalfields Market. The bright and minimally-decorated dining room was already filled with people eating and drinking when we arrived in the early evening and staff inside the open kitchen at the far end was in full action cooking and plating.


For a menu that changes daily, they actually offered quite a range of dishes with more than a dozen choices, though some of them were already sold out when we tried to order. Well overall I would say the dishes ranged from "hmm hmm interesting" to some truly delicious wonders using very simple ingredients. The crayfish arrived first, with all five of these little red creatures from River Tess lined up neatly in a round dish, "execution style". Jokes aside, the meat was tender with a soft bite and the airy dill mayo sauce was yummy with that.


We had a few more dishes to share family-style. The jellied ham was a slab filled with gelatinous tastiness, making best use of the neglected parts of the pig. The quail was roasted perfectly with pinkish meat inside and worked well with the sweet Brambley jam served on the side.

After a few bites I did grow to appreciate more of the pickled tripe, radishes and watercress. The sharp acidity and almost melt-in-the-mouth texture of the tripe served cold were exotic, but I loved them. The lamb faggots - that's the Brit term for this particularly dish okay before you Americans start to scream the H word at me - was like a more delicate version of meatballs with a mild gamey taste and soft, pillow-y texture from the Herdwick lamb meat and offal cooked slowly.

The black cuttlefish and tomato was another unusual combination but overall it was okay - just not as mind-blowing as I would expect. I guess the one dish I absolutely disliked for the evening was the pea in the pod, which was literally all that is. It's a bit raw to me and I wasn't a big fan of that bitter, grassy taste from the raw peas.

When it came to desserts, there were un-proportionally too many choices available which made it hard to choose. At the end four of us decided to order 3 desserts to share and they were simply delicious. Before we came, one of my friends mentioned Madeleine is a must-order item here so we had half a dozen to share. They were warm and fluffy like a perfect sponge cake. The strawberry icecream was simple yet decadent, while the chocolate mousse was packed with nothing but the great cocoa flavor.

It was an enjoyable evening at this lively venue hanging out and catching up with friends and I thought the food was fine. We haven't tried St John before so I thought this probably gave us a glimpse of what the restaurant and owner Fergus Henderson's cooking philosophy is about. A good place to be if you come with an adventurous mind.

When? June 25 2015
Where? St John Bread and Wine, 94-96 Commercial Street, London E1 6LZ
Menu Highlights? Quail and Bramley Jelly, Jellied Ham and Frisee
Drink? Domaine La Prade Mari Viognier Pays d'Oc Blanc 2013
Web: https://www.stjohngroup.uk.com/spitalfields/



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