Fergus Henderson, the proprietor of St. John, is regarded as a pioneer in redifining British food, with people like Bourdain holding him in the same regards as Ferran Adrian. He suffers from Parkinson's Disease, and has done serious philanthropic work for those who suffer from it. He doesn't cook at St. John anymore, but his vision is apparent. The restaurant is widely known for it's use of offal (guts, and other innards), and reinventing traditional British food. The wines, well, they're all French, and that is intimidating...
Sian booked our reservations a while back, and we met up with her friends Laura, and Leila for our meal. She really wanted me to meet this Leila character, apparently we hatched from the same pod. She is of Iranian descent, and an avid foodie/eater. I liked her. She had the spark. She made a comment that will stick with me, "I didn't know there were others out there from the same species..." Well, we're few and far between, but we exist.
St. John is in the the middle of London's financial district, and is very inconspicuous. It's simple white and black marquee doesn't scream gastro-Mecca, but what waits inside will speak volumes. I don't believe it has any Michelin Stars, but that doesn't really matter to me. The decor is amazing: there isn't any. At. All. Everything is white, and coat hooks line the room. The tables have white cloth and paper on them, as well as glasses waiting for modestly iced water. The waitstaff are smartly dressed with embroidered chef coats that go to mid thigh. The kitchen is open, and sparkling. The downstairs is basically a pub, with a modestly sized dining room upstairs.
For starters, I ordered his renowned Marrow Bone and Parsley Salad, and a terrine made of Middle White pig parts, and a pint of St. Joseph's ale. I've become hooked on parkside's marrow bones, and these were just as good. Unctuous, rich, buttery, and easily spreadable, the marrow just slips right out of the bone like the results of eating too many WOW chips. Unreal. A little parsley, caper, shallots and course salt compliment this fatty treat atop crusty grilled bread.
The terrine was over the top. Unidentifiable parts of offal, pressed into a mold, covered in fat... what could be better? It was served with little French style gherkins. I fell in love with this soft meat treat, and Leila commented that it was her favorite part of the meal. I will be making my own, soon enough. The Middle White pig was done full justice here. Waste not, want not. I was experiencing a food high of smack proportions; my head was swimming, and I hadn't even gotten my main yet...
For my main course, I ordered the Ox Heart and Chard, as well as a side of new potatoes. Yeah. That's right, ox heart. It was so unbelievably tender, and reminiscent of the best fajitas I've ever had. The chard was braised in what I assume to be duck fat, and was the equivalent of vegetable ejaculate in my mouth. I felt like a dirty whore eating this food. Even the new potatoes were too good to be true. The heart was so thinly sliced, and still cooked like medium rare, that I was scratching my head wondering how this had happened?
Kali ma, kali ma a shaday!!!
I ordered a bottle of 2005 Domaine de Deurre St. Maurice Chote du Rhone, that was perfectly complimentary. It's thin mouthfeel, dry finish and notes of clove, ripe, dark fruits held up against all the fat I was consuming. Yay France!
Sian had the Brill, Leeks and Green Sauce, Leila the Smoked Eel with Bacon and Mash, and Laura the Guinea Fowl, Chips and Aioli. All which were amazing. The brill was bony, but that's okay with me, the guinea was like the dankest fried chicken ever, and the eel was succulent, but over powered by an overly salty bacon. I'd eat them all again.
For dessert, I ordered another pint, a shot of Balvenie 12, and a shot of espresso to start. Leila and I shared the Lemon Posset, and Sian and Laura had the Pear Crumble. The posset's texture was like nothing I've had before, and for heavy cream was light as air. The crumble was savory, and probably contained no extra sugar, which I found appealing even though others did not.
Our meal turned into a strange debate with the next table. A man from Virginia sat next to us. Sian told him I was from Austin. He worked on the McCain campaign... Can you see where this is going? He said some pretty powerful things about being ready to support Obama, which I found hopeful, but when he said he worked for the Pentagon, I started speaking with the table on my left. I wasn't going to argue with the man about anything. He asked Leila some questions about Iran, and their ability to get unfiltered news, and it seemed like he wanted some kind of validation from the cute little Iranian girl.
Despite her being British, he kept referring to Iran as 'your country' as he made a case for why the U.S. was better. It was awkward, but she kept taking the bait, and did a good job defending herself. Weird. He was the epitome of the angry white man, and espoused the argument that the Professor says his father uses: "I'm old so I know, so shut up." Homey don't play that. May the boomers slip out of politics quickly (no offense to my boomer base!).
My only critique beyond Joe Defense Department, was our server. I think she just saw a bunch of twenty somethings, and didn't really give us the service we deserved. Our meal took nearly four hours to complete. I enjoyed it, but a few of the ladies were like, WTF, mate? I'll be going back for lunch before I leave. This meal was one of the best I've ever had, and a truly life changing culinary event. Inspiring and empowering.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.