During the year 2012 , I have been to quite a few superb establishment and one such restaurant is undoubtedly remain a firm favourite of mine - St. John Hotel . Sitting quietly between Chinatown and Leicester Square is this unassuming restaurant/hotel from the 'King of Offal' Fergus Henderson's growing empire. Over the year, I have been back a few times but for one reason or another I have never quite managed to write up a blog post. But upon hearing recent news about it going into liquidation and now the latest update is that it has been bought out by a Singapore businessman, I am determined to post a loving obituary about this wonderful restaurant.
My first visit was with a few foodie friends of mine. We have just been dining nearby in a rather disappointing venue where we refused to indulge ourselves any further in their pudding selection and so we all trotted along to St John's Hotel after hearing high accolades from my friend John who had been a few times. And so this 'pudding club quartet' made our decent into this rather cosy little dining room. The decor left very little to be desire. A simple boxed room, cramped with tables that were adorned with plain white tablecloths. Open kitchen at one end where there seemed to be an army of chef busy cooking away. My reservation however were quickly dismissed by an amiable Canadian waiter who served us with perfect hospitality.
Poor Knight's Pudding And Raspberries (£7.40) :
Gooseberry Tart and Vanilla Ice Cream (£7.60) :
We shared the Welsh rarebit (£5.20) to begin with before we launch our assaults on the puddings. It was deceptively simple but had a hidden subtlety, with more depth of flavours than any rarebit I have had put together. It also had an unexpected but pleasant kick to it.
As for the puddings, all were superb, especially the poor knight's pudding - an retro toasted eggy brioche dessert served with some seasonal raspberries. It was light and as it soaked up the gradually melting vanilla ice cream, turned into this creamy sponge that was just so satisfying. The Gooseberry tart too were sweet with a faint tartness. The rich and short pastry were perfect vessels to carry a bite size of these juicy fruits to the mouth, creating an utterly pleasing and comforting sensation. The weaker of the lot were perhaps the chocolate and caramel slice, the puff pastry could be a bit lighter and flakier, however, it did not distract from the fact that it was still very good. As for the Madeleine, Oh those Madeleine.....! Damn, those were good! Fresh from the oven, warm and still moist when bite into the delicate little shell-shaped cakes. So good.....so good!
Strawberries and Sherry Trifle (£7.60) :
Chocolate and Caramel Slice (£8.20) :
Madeleine (£7.80 for 12) :
So now you might be wondering, the puddings were obviously top-notch but what about their savoury dishes? Well, I'll have you know, they were just as excellent. The followings are from their pre-theatre set menu, priced at £22.50 for 3 courses.
The devilled pig skins salad demonstrated one of the better use of this piece of crackling in a long while. Crispy and delicately spiced, the chilli kick cut though the sharp tangy dressing and the crunchy fennel and watercress provided a fresh balance to the entire dish. The salt cod fritters were light and deep-fried perfection. They were grease-free and so damn moreish. I had to share this with my friend Goz and I wish we would have the hindsight to order another plate of these, big mistake!
Of all the mains, the stood out dish were the pork shoulder. It was beautifully grilled, with still that elusive pinkness that gave this piece of meat such tender bite. The knife glided across the meat effortlessly and once in the mouth, it just had this almost cream-like texture and packed full of porky-flavour. Never had I ever experienced such delicateness from a notoriously tough cut of meat. It was so good that I can still remember it to this day. Needless to say, the pudding were once again superb.
Devilled Pig Skins :
Salt Cod Fritters :
Sole with Beans :
Pork Shoulder and Butter Beans :
Eton Mess :
Blackberries Crumble and Vanilla Ice Cream :
Now we have come to the very sad end to this post. Due to the current bought out by a Singapore hotelier, the word on the street is that Fergus Henderson will no longer be involved in the running of this fantastic joint, and so soon after they've just been awarded their first Michelin star despite only been operating for a year! For now I would recommend anyone who has yet to patron this marvellous restaurant go as soon as possible. It will all change, for the good or bad I don't know, but one thing for certain, the magic touch from the genius himself will no longer be present.
For any additional information on the future of St. John hotel, click on this link.