Thursday, March 16, 2006

Restaurant review: St John's bread and wine

I had the pleasure to go for lunch in nice company at St John's Bread and Wine, in Spitafields. For those who don't know this institution, they also have a sister restaurant in Smithfields.

This is a restaurant located minutes away from the square mile, yet informal: there is no table cloth and tables are sqeezed close to each other. The hearty food is how I like it: simple and quality ingredients. The wine list should keep everyone talking, it's well researched (by this I mean they DID work on it, avoiding merchands and looking for great picks). There are excellent value wines from small producers (like a st chinian at £15) but I guess because the ABN Amro HQ are just besides there's also a romanĂ©e conti at half-a-grand.

One of us was a champaign addict, so we had a Ruinart (£38). Now, I'm not usually a bubbly fan as I view reds as a better quality/price ratio (there's so much average bubblies). The Ruinart web site says it's made mainly with chardonnay, which is quite a prowess as the result has lots of body and tanins.

The idea of eating at St Johns is about collaborative sourcing: pick and share. So, what's the food like?
Well, we had some salad (with beetroot I think, £3.50), pickled herrings (£5.60) which were melting so nicely that we had some more a second serving. I had some veal kidneys with bacon and dandelion (£7) and because I am an offal fan I had all. And the ruinart kept the pace with it, which really surprised me. Langoustine mayonnaise (£10) paraded next, followed by some brill and parsley (also a tenner) -which I did not taste but looked firm, fresh and delicious. There was some beetroot, sorrel and egg (£5.80) making rounds as well and I could not resist the english cheese-board. Which wasn't bad, even good I must say: there was some goat, stilton, leicester. And since they bake bread on the premises, I did not have to do with the damn crackers (I love stilton and port, but crackers for cheese? Come on...)

St Johns is dangerous: it is evident that they make a lot of efforts in sourcing best ingredients and wines. They know how to combine this for a true and great bistro food experience. Once lured inside, you will re-invent the world. For a quite a while probably. You have been warned.

St JOHN Bread & Wine Spitalfields
94-96 Commercial Street London E1 6LZ
+44 20 7247 872

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