St John, London: Review

Fair to say I bottled it at St John, the much-heralded London institution that bought gnarly cuts and honking guts back to the collective table. A cursory look at the menu from this visit shows I could have opted for a bit of gizzard, a slab of spleen or some grilled ox heart; thus paying homage in the proper manner.

But there was hake, chips and tartare sauce on the menu, and if a Michelin star restaurant is sticking chips on, I’m filling the old boots.

Like the food I ate, the place itself is unfussy and to the point. It’s ace.

Here’s a starred restaurant for folk not arsed about the Michelin ‘thing’. The entrance is invitingly scuffed up. Inside, amidst the fug of offal, it’s all ordered calm, almost utilitarian, though never cold and certainly not in an attempt to be ‘on-trend’.

Service is neither stuffy or best-matey; I’m offered the wine list – “or maybe you fancy a beer?” – and thirstily plump for both.

Sir Ferg himself is chillaxing about six feet away, so to kick things off and appear in-the-know I order the signature Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad (£8.90), lest he susses me out for the utter amatuer that I really am.

(I’m half tempted to buy him a drink and thus become, over the course of a memorable lunch, bezzie mates forevz. I muse about us butchering some beast together, akin to the pottery-wheel scene in Ghost, but with a meat-mincer. I am, at this point, reminded of the perils as well of the joys of eating on one’s tod.)

The marrow’s winkled from within the bone (veal shin, four of ‘em, fyi,) and slathered across slices of sturdy toast. Salt it, flutter with the sharpening parsley salad and find yourself in a happy place. It’s like a souped-up version of bread dredged through the unidentifiable but unctuous leavings at the bottom of a roasting tin.

Course it’s not a hoity-toity fillet of hake here but a steak (£20.10), which means there are stabby bones from which to pull succulent, meaty flesh. Bones, as we’re told daily on whichever cooking show happens to be on, add flavour, and a satisfying time is spent hacking and tearing and, subsequently, scoffing. I like to think Ferg witnessed this animalistic display and nodded solemnly and knowingly.

As you’d expect, they certainly know their way around a chip here and you get a hearty, crunchy mound of the things. If ever there was a time and a place in which to sluice them through the creamy tartare – given added zip by accompanying lemon – and stuff them into the face without the use of cutlery, St John was that place and this was that time.

For appearance’s sake, I also ordered a side of quickly-cooked greens (£3.70).

I walk out into an autumnal afternoon but, alas, Fergus doesn’t beckon me back to shoot the shit over a post-lunch snifter. But we could still be mates, mate.

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