One of our favourite restaurants here in Houston is Feast. One of the two chef/owners at Feast is James Silk who worked for many years at St. John’s in London, and is a proponent of “Nose to Tail Eating” championed by Fergus Henderson the owner of St. John’s. The food at Feast is superb, and is clearly influenced by St. John’s, so finding myself in London, I had to take the opportunity and pay a visit.
St. John’s was sadly booked solid, however St. John – Bread and Wine, their sister restaurant, was not. Bakery and Wine Merchant by day, Restaurant by night, St. John’s B &W is in Spitalfields, just around the corner from the somewhat creepy looking All Saint’s Church, which fans of Alan Moore’s “From Hell” will certainly be familiar with.
We arrived at about 8, just in time to see a suckling pig being brought out to serve a large group, there to celebrate a birthday. Suckling pig can be ordered with one weeks notice, and looked delicious. The aroma wafting over as the pig was carved up started the drool-juices flowing.
I started off with Ham, Turnip Leaves and Dandelion, a delicious salad. Our starters had taken quite a while to arrive, but given the ample supply of excellent bread from the bakery this wasn’t really an issue. The length of time it took for our main courses to arrive was however.
We had ordered two Speckled Face Mutton and Black Cabbage dishes, and one Brill, with garlic and brown butter. After almost an hour of waiting, the two lamb dishes arrived, looking fantastic – pink and succulent. Markus and I waited poltely before diving in for Suresh’s fish dish to arrive. I wish we hadn’t! After about a minute the waiter came and whisked away our plates! Apparently they had made a mistake and had served them to the wrong table.
This might have been forgivable if it hadn’t taken another 30 minutes for our own lamb and fish to arrive. Our annoyance was compounded by the fact that the lamb was cold! I realise that lamb served in this way is best served warm, not hot, however ours was most definitely at room temperature. The waiter offered to take it back and warm it up, but we were understandably reticent to part with it after such a long wait.
I have to say that it really was superb, despite being cold. I’m sure if it had been warm it would have been even better.
The manager was most apologetic about the incredibly slow service – although we did have to wait a little while for her to get to us, as she was busy apologising for the same thing to a couple sitting behind us! She comped us the lamb main courses which was a nice gesture. Sadly, given how late it was we didn’t really have time to sample the puddings, something for which St. John’s are well known for.
All in all, while the food was really top-notch, the evening was soured by the very poor service, and had the food not been so good I would definitely have second thoughts about returning. As it is, I’d give them another go.
St. John Bread & Wine – 94-96 Commercial St. London E1 6LZ