Thursday, September 11, 2008

St. John Bread and Wine

In the words of Fergie's annoying and shrill song, "London, London, Lon- DON!"

Yes I'm back and I've been slow. I have no excuse.... Well... I kind of do. I've been eating crap food mostly. For some reason I've been craving spaghetti bolognese like nobody's business and I can't seem to cook a decent potful of the stuff! Instead I've been eating the frozen stuff from Sainsbury's with ketchup and Tabasco. Yes, I'm disgusted with myself.

But I am here back to tell you about a restaurant I went to with Susan, who was so impressed, we went back a mere 3 days later, joined by the gracious Fushia Dunlop. The restaurant being St. John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields.

The first time Susan and I went, we got there early at noon and was the earliest lunchtime table. It was a nice, casual setting, with a counter separating the kitchen from the main dining room. Lots of white and dark woods, it was very clean and modern looking, with a small selection of breads and pastries available for take out.

The menu was printed and handed to us with the day's specials on the board. We were instantly drawn to the Pig's Tail, Chicory and Mustard, which we decided we most definitely had to have. Then we ordered a selection of dishes including Peas and Ticklemore, the simply named dished of Tomatoes, Deviled Rabbit's Kidneys, and Old Spot and Lentils.

Susan started with a single razor clam, which looked like it had been drizzled with a vinaigrette and thinly sliced red onion. I'm not sure how it tasted but I'm sure she can enlighten us in the comments... Please?

The Peas and Ticklemore (type of cheese) arrived next, a really fresh, sweet, delicious tasting peas with tangles of pea leaves and the slightly tangy, thin slices of cheese. It was dressed simply in some olive oil and was wonderful. We ordered this again on our second visit, which came with gorgeous edible purple flowers from another species of pea plant.

The Tomatoes, we had to try since we wanted to understand how a dish of tomatoes could cost . The came all different colors and types, some small and some a bit larger, cut in half and dressed. Accompanied by a small salad with these lovely pickled walnuts. The tomatoes were good but not anything special tasting, despite their probable unique heritage.

But the Pig's Tail. It was great! All crispy on the outside and soft, fatty and cartilage-y. Yum, yum! It was very rich and with all our other dishes, we couldn't finish it and by the end of the meal, the crispy bits had softened somewhat, making it less delicious. Although we did hope to see it on our second visit, it wasn't available.

Old Spot and Lentils, which we had high hopes for, was slices of pork belly on a bed of lentils. It was ok but nothing spectacular. The pork, although a fatty cut, was slightly dry and salty. We ate little of it due to the temptation of all the other dishes.

The Deviled Rabbit's Kidneys was delicious. Tender little nuggets with just enough chew with a lovely sauce over a toasted piece of bread. I do love kidneys and luckily, so does Susan!

The second visit lasted from breakfast to lunch and we started with a bacon butty, a wonderfully piggy bacon sandwich, which just made us a bit more hungry for the rest of our meal.

We ordered the Smoked Eel & Horseradish, which was just sooo good, smoky, oily and rich, and came in two small pieces with real horseradish. Upon tasting it, I really wanted to immediately order another one all for myself.

The Snails, Nettles & Brown Butter came in a buttery, chewy tangle with bread underneath to mop up the juices, of which there were a plenty. It was good but I was still fixated on the eel.

The Girolles & Goat's Curd was very 'forest-y' tasting if that makes sense. The tang and creaminess of the goat's curd was a good contrast as it brought out the foresty greeness of the just tender girolles.

Crab Meat on Toast was sooo rich, even with the squirt of lemon. It was a bargain in my opinion, with two generous slices of toast slathered with crab meat (which is a pain to remove). Happily, they didn't include just the white crab meat but bits of roe, which gave it a slight discoloration but made it all the more rich.

The first time we went, we had an Eccles cake to share. This was a huge piece of dense and surprisingly delicious sugared pastry wrapped with dark, dense, sweet currants and perhaps other fruits. It was served with a big piece of Lancashire Cheese. I am not usually a fan of anything with raisins (crunchy eyeballs...ewww) or dried fruit but this was very good, sweet, chewy and was definitely moreish.

The madeleines we ordered, on the other hand, were a big disappointment. Dry and a little too large, they were nothing to write home about. As much as I like dessert, I say, stick to the small plates here and maybe finish with an Eccles cake...only if you have others to share with, it's a rich dessert!

The second time we couldn't manage dessert but I did manage to finish off the yogurt and strawberries which we had ordered with our bacon butty but had completely forgotten about by the time the savories arrived.

All I can say is that writing this post has made me hungry for more food there. Simple yet complex yet delicious and hearty, I can't wait to go back for more.

St. John Bread and Wine Spitalfields
94-96 Commercial Street
E1 6LZ
Reservations: 020 7251 0848


umami said...

I'll go back with you. I loved their Welsh Rarebit. And the eccles cake, which you can takeaway or buy from their outdoor stand at Exmouth market on weekends.

susan in HK said...

Oh, the razor clam was delish - so sweet and tender. I think it was made with lots of butter, some shallots and parsley - maybe a bit of garlic? anyway, I love that place. Fuchsia is right - it's more relaxed than the regular St John and so therefore more enjoyable.
Oh, and don't forget, Fuchsia's friend, Anissa Helou, also stopped by but I don't think she ate anything. We discussed ice creams and I was going to send her my strawberry ice cream recipe - but haven't yet.
Shall I send you Marcella Hazan's recipe for spag bog? It's the one I always use and it's delish. Takes hours to cook but it's very easy.
see you soon,

susan in HK said...

Oh, and come to think of it, the shallots (with the razor clam) might have been lightly pickled.

Sui Mai said...

Any recipe for spag bol would be appreciated! I have time, just no that how the kids spell these days???