I had been meaning to go to St John for a while; nose-to-tail eating sounds great and also challenging. I'm not offal's biggest fan - kidneys and liver aren't my favourite, but I do like tripe, so I was looking forward to pushing my own boundaries a bit.
Myself and a few other bloggers (Niamh, Helen G, Helen, Chris) were kindly invited along by Rob from Wine Conversation so that he could tell us about some wines that we were drinking, and in turn talk about the impact on social media tools - such as Twitter - as well as food, drink, and general banter.
So, upon arrival I was surprised to see the restaurant itself looking quite spartan. High ceilings, stone floors and plain tablecloths is very different from what I'd expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant, but there was a heathy buzz in the restaurant and a lot of full tables. We were seated in the private room, which was perfect due to so many of us taking photos!
To start, I ordered the 'Pig's Head & Radishes'. In my mind I expected some sort of pressed terrine, and was quite surprised when I got this. Amongst the radishes there were chunks of pork, quite fatty and flavoursome pieces. The radishes worked well in this dish. The contrasting textures were very pleasing, and it was all lightened with a warm vinaigrette. Excellent crusty bread helped mop up all the lovely juices.
Others had the signature dish from St John, the 'Roast Bone Marrow on Toast with Parsley Salad'. It was an impressive plate, with the bones standing tall like the pillars of the Colosseum. Armed with what looked like a torture instrument with which to extract the marrow, the bones released a luscious paste with which to spread on the toast. The parsley and caper salad was perfect to cut through the richness of it.
With this, we had the first of the wines, a white Rioja. I had commented that I'd not had a white Rioja but apparently it's not that common to find it. This wine was perfect, and possibly my favourite of the night - it was light and refreshing, matching my pork dish perfectly.
Next came the mains. When I first saw the menu, I saw several things that I wanted to try - roast kid, woodcock, teal, ox hearts. But one thing caught my eye, which was 'Chitterlings & Turnips'. I've never seen chitterlings on a menu before, and I wanted to seize the opportunity to give them a go. I've had pig's intestines in Chinese cuisine before, but I don't remember much about how it tasted. Besides which, in true food envy paranoia, I made Helen promise I could try her roast kid dish...
When the plate arrived, I was surprised to see the size of it - I shouldn't have eaten so much bread... I loved the turnips; they were juicy and had absorbed much of the porky goodness. The pork itself was tender and some pieces fell apart at the touch of a fork - other pieces had a pleasing, jelly-like wobble. The Dinastia Vivanco Crianza was my favourite red; it was robust, slightly smoky and stood up well to the meaty mains.
Speaking of jelly-like wobbles, this rhubard jelly, compote and shortbread was one of the highlights of the food. The jelly was just the right consistency and was the right side of sour. The sugary shortbread and the custard balanced it out perfectly and was a light and refreshing end to the meal.
I had a great time at St John - good food, excellent wine and great company. I must say it's very different from other Michelin starred restaurants and I did come away feeling a bit confused about them being awarded one. Of course the food was gorgeous in it's own right (although perhaps I over-did it with the double pig courses), but when compared to places I've been to like Maze, Benares and Umu, it wasn't really in the same league. I mean, there was no one to walk me to the toilet or to pull my chair out for me - or even to pick my napkin off the floor (!). That says a lot, really; obviously these things aren't always needed.
The great thing is that the menu is contstantly changing, meaning I have an excuse to go back.
Edit - check out Rob's excellent post for more info on the wines we drank.