Any excuse to have lunch at St John Bread and Wine and I was there. I was living on the other side of London so I would somehow incorporate it into a shopping trip to Shoreditch on my day off or on the way to see a friend, anything. As I sat there, usually dining alone, I would pour over the menu wondering if I should order a few starters, and how many I could fit in by myself, or a main and dessert, decisions, decisions.
After reading Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential, some years ago, I remember he was asked if he had to choose his last meal ever it would be St John Restaurant’s bone marrow and parsley salad. When Anthony Bourdain speaks I tend to take note. So where was this great bone marrow salad that they supposedly serve here at St John? I’ve never seen it on the menu?
After speaking to one of the chefs it all became clear. I had to go to St John Smithfield (HQ) if I wanted the dishes St John was famous for, the dishes people travel great distances to consume. St John Bread and Wine is the baby sister, and as such have a wider scope in which they can create dishes whilst still in keeping within the ethos of St John.
When I think of St John I think of food cooked simply to bring great British produce to the table with a minimum of fuss, and the bone marrow and parsley salad.
Obviously I had to make a trip to St John Smithfield to check it out and a few times after that just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke or anything…
I ate it thinking Anthony you are right, you are so right! The rich bone marrow fat pulled from the centre of the bone looks slightly unnerving sitting on the toasted bread so the fact that you then cover it with leaves of parsley, salty capers, thin onion and wet salt, makes it easier for the first bite to get to your mouth. After that you don’t care. I didn’t care that I sat in a rare print 1950’s dress with stockings and heels, my hands covered in bone marrow fat and my face feeling like it was as well. I could have another one but I had already ordered a main.
Yes I know that people have been eating bone marrow for centuries and St John didn’t totally invent the dish or anything, but they did put it on the menu along with alot of other foods and cuts of meat, people had forgotten about. Yes pigs head comes to mind along with various sea vegetables.
The brill and slow roasted fennel was beautiful. Perfectly cooked fish with super crusty buttery skin, love it, although the fennel was a bit heavy in olive oil for my liking. Anyway I had just had the bone marrow, I was happy.
My favourite ever dessert from St John B&W was a lemon posset with the best shortbread I have ever had. A cherry tart with sour cream ice cream came very second close. Today all I could fit in was a lemon sorbet with the obligatory vodka shot.
At both sites St John have their bakery section open for select public purchases. I can never leave without bagging a loaf of their heavy tasty bread and a eccles cake, today I thought I may as well pop in some freshly baked madeleines along side my haul. They bake them to order so there is often an amazing smell wafting out of the bakery.
Slowly spooning the cleansing, refreshing sorbet into my mouth, I sat there planning how it would be so easy, and not to mention cheap, to make the bone marrow salad myself. Of course I haven’t yet, probably just as well, I’m guessing my coronary arteries would not thank me for that regular dose of fat.