Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fergus Henderson's St John Restaurant

Anthony Bourdain cannot say enough good things about Fergus Henderson. I believe Fergus sparked the revolution of nose to tail eating and is widely recognized for his skill in the kitchen while battling the effects of early onset Parkinson's Disease. Given the hype around this chef, I was excited to have the change to eat at his famed St John restaurant when we visited London.

The restaurant consists of a bar and bakery outside of a main (separate) dining room. As we walked up to the location, I was amused to see the English tradition of drinking beer and smoking on the sidewalk outside was in full force. The restaurant itself is situated in a large industrial space inside that somehow evokes a farm to table feeling. Here is the best picture I could get with the iPhone of the main dining area:

It's a very casual yet sophisticated setting, and the food matched the ambiance perfectly. Our starters were simple but perfectly cooked: asparagus with hot butter, just fresh steamed spears with a little dish of melted butter, and roasted bone marrow with toast, fleur de sel and a parsley salad with capers and shallots. Our entrees were just as simple - I ordered the roasted ox tongue since I'm a big fan of cow tongue, but this was definitely tougher than what I was expecting. I wasn't sure if it was due to the gender of the beast or the method of cooking, which in this case was roasted as opposed to braised. The tongue came with well-cooked fries and an extremely tasty homemade ketchup. The husband ordered the roasted rabbit, which confirmed for me for the third time that rabbit isn't for me. It was a good thing in retrospect that we didn't notice this statement on the menu before we ordered, though it does qualify as the best disclaimer on the menu ever: "game and guinea fowl may contain a lead shot". Guess things aren't farm raised around here!

We each ordered a dessert - since I'm a sucker for meringue, I ordered the raspberry meringue and cream that was exactly as it sounds, except it was a good thing that I don't have a nut allergy as the meringues were filled with whole hazelnuts and what seemed to be a gooey nougat. The nuts kinda ruined it for me - I'm a purist when it comes to meringues, and it was also too sweet for my liking. The husband hit a jackpot when he ordered the very traditional Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese - we'd never heard of this cake before but it has flavours reminiscent of baklava, as it's currents and a mix of rich spices (nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice, I believe) that's wrapped in puff pastry and baked, then served warm with a nice hunk of this cows milk cheese that is similar in taste to a good quality cheddar.

Overall we were treated to an incredible meal at St John's for what seemed to be a bargain price (about £80 total including two glasses of wine, or roughly $130 USD). I would definitely go back the next time and also check out the new St John Hotel which also features additional restaurants. A reason to go back, not that I need an excuse to travel and eat...

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