St John Bread and Wine (Spitalfields, London, UK)

One of the greatly unfortunate fact of life is that English cuisine still wrongly suffers from a relatively poor international reputation. I can’t count the number of friends and coworkers that, upon hearing that I was going to be spending two weeks in England, their response was, “I’m so sorry, I hear the food is terrible.”

It’s terribly unfortunate, since nothing could be further from the truth. While there definitely was some justification for the stereotype of bad English food back in the 60s and 70s, the cuisine of England has definitely improved, and, especially in London, includes several of the best restaurants in the world.

One of these is St John restaurant. The chef at St John, Fergus Henderson, focuses on doing classic British cooking done to high standards of perfection, with typical fare including such items as roast suckling pig, aged Scottish rib roasts, Grouse, and other high quality meats served with an excellent assortment of sides.

Prior to my brother’s wedding, he hosted a feast for several of his US friends and relatives at St John Bread and Wine, which is the less formal younger sibling to the original St John restaurant, and it is located across from Spitalfields Market.

The feast menu was top notch, including the following items:

The opening course was a pork and endive salad, featuring both roasted pork belly and crunchy pork skin mixed with well-dressed endive. The result was a stunningly good combination of both taste (the pork notes combining nicely with the sharper tastes of the dressing and the bitter notes of the endive) and texture (the crisp salad played against both the softer pork belly and crunch pork skin).

The second course was a beet and goat cheese salad. This was much, much better than it sounds, with perfectly pickled beets in a nice cabbage slaw with lentils. Everything worked here, the beets were delicious and tender, the dressing nice and tangy, and the textures of the cheese blended nicely with the rest of this. This was seriously one of the best salads I’ve ever had.

The main course at St John was an aged Scottish Longhorn forerib roast. Perfectly cooked (just barely rare) and not overseasoned, letting the meat itself express it’s flavors, this was a top-notch roast, and was served with some perfectly wilted cabbage.

Dessert was Queen of Puddings, a nice steamed bread pudding with raspberry preserves and some perfectly executed meringue peaks on top.

All of these courses combined to create one of the best meals I’ve ever had. This was definitely one of those meals that is poorly expressed in pictures, and needs to be seen, smelled, and tasted to be full appreciated.

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