August 15th, 2007

Feast

St. John

Location: 26 St. John St., near Smithfields Market. London.

St. John carries the flag for nose-to-tail meat eating in the UK. I've read about it for years but didn't make it there until morganlf arranged for dinner there. Bonus: at long last, I got to meet her K. Once inside through the garage door, the whitewashed walls bring light to the bar. The space was once a driveway or a back alley, long since covered over and incorporated into the building which houses the restaurant itself. The all-white theme, deliberately reminiscent of a butcher's shop, is carried into the restaurant, up a few stairs from the bar. The ceiling is white, the row of sensible coat hooks which encircle the room are white, the linen is white.

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The meal's weaknesses were more a result of our tastes and expectations than many particular weaknesses on the part of the restaurant. (The cheesecake really wasn't a good one though.) The appetizers were solid, and there were minor highlights throughout the meal. Ultimately though, St. John succeeds in doing exactly what it sets out to do - straightforward, competent meats, often lesser-used cuts, whose accompaniaments are, by and large, classically English. This is traditional English cooking without the overcooked vegetables, and with a great deal of affection for those traditions. It's classy pub fare in a restaurant setting. It's a menu with Eccles cake and cobnuts. But for all this tradition, it's located at the edge of the City, with prices to match.

With few exceptions, what St. John does, it does well. Don't go there if you want anything fancy. Don't go there if your budget is tight. Do go there if you're hungry for highly-competent meaty English comfort fare.*

* Note: they do always have one veggie main each day.