St John’s Bread & Wine
London! My sporadic wanderings continue and it was to the city of my birth that next the road took me. I was but a mite when I left the capital’s clutches so much of it remains a foreign land to me. But one place with which I was familiar was the splendid St John Bread & Wine in Shoreditch.
When the opportunity arose to take my pal Rene there for a meal ahead of his forthcoming wedding – the main reason for my London visit was for his intended Kathryn’s hen do, which represented a first for me – I was confident he’d be impressed.
After warm-up drinks in town at Bar Swift, we squeezed into the tube then popped out like so much Primula just near the restaurant.
Owned by nose-to-tail pioneers Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver, St John has now spread to several businesses across the city, including a wine shop , bakery, this place and their flagship restaurant.
St John’s calling card is hearty, seasonal dishes coupled with their own baked goods and own-label wines. They have been the inspiration for places such as Gardener’s Cottage in Edinburgh with whom they’ve collaborated on a number of events.
The dining format is sharing dishes> These are set out as standard starters and mains on the menu. I think they describe things as sharing plates to make you feel less guilty for ordering more than one starter each which suited us fine.
We opened with the braised cuttlefish with wild garlic, the salt cod with boiled egg, and the ox heart and chips. We followed with ox cheeks with celeriac and the Tamworth chop with sour cabbage. We accompanied things with their own Bien Autre red.
Things arrived as they were ready. But first there was their splendid bread to get things going. Cuttlefish and cod soon arrived and both were splendid. The cuttlefish in particular is not something you see on menus that much and on the basis of this dish I hope that is immediately rectified.
The ox heart came next with the accompanying chips and ketchup outstanding.
The mains were meaty delights with the beef fall-apart great and the chop complete with excellent crackling. Top notch.
We couldn’t complete our visit without trying their signature madeleines which are cooked to order. The brown bread and marmalade ice-cream was practically a savoury dish so didn’t give my lack of sweet-tooth too much angst. It gave my belly a lot of pleasure.
So overall, it was great to renew acquaintances with the peerless St John. It’s a highlight meal of any year with service as welcoming and knowledgeable as you’ll find and the whole atmosphere of the place entirely conducive to much thoughtful food and drink merriment. Make sure to visit next time you’re in these parts.
Blythe scores St John’s Bread & Wine
5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 17.5/20
Today’s questers were: Rene, Blythe
We ate: salt cod, toast, boiled egg; braised cuttlefish, wild garlic; ox heart and chips; ox cheek; Tamworth chop, bread and marmalade ice cream, madeleines
We drank: St John bien autre, water, espresso
We wore: beards
Total bill: £116
Address: 94-96 Commercial Street, London E1 6LZ