"Simple, comforting food"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
St. John’s House is located on St. John’s Hill, a little walk away from the hustle and bustle of Clapham Junction. The venue’s white and black exterior suggests gastro-pub, whereas inside reveals a cosy space with comfortable booths and bookshelves lining some of the walls.
Seating is on the sparse side, which makes me wonder whether this pub becomes a raucous, dancey affair on busy nights. We are seated at one of the booths where we spy an entrance to The Secret Library, a separate room which is available for hire.
The menu is small but perfectly formed, with the typical pies, bangers & mash and burgers, as well as bar snacks and appetizers. To start with we order bread and olives (£4.50) and the vegetarian arancini balls (£4.50). The bread is herby focaccia bread, along with a selection of olives that have been warmed up – a technique I have not tried before, but certainly serves to bring out their piquant flavour.
The arancini balls are risotto rice balls coated in Japanese (very fine) breadcrumbs and deep fried; they are accompanied by garlic mayonnaise. Six of these generously-sized rice balls plus the bread means we’re already half full by the time we’re done with the first course, and our waiter seems to read our minds as he asks us whether we’d like a little break before our next dish.
We sip a crisp white Riesling as we wait - just as well as when our mains arrive they are also on the generous side. My companion bites into a hearty burger (£9.50) that threatens to overflow everywhere, luckily my dish is daintier. The pie of the week (£7.50) is lamb in a red wine sauce with peas and carrots. A thin layer of pastry coats the outside; it is crispy on top and just a tad doughy on the inside. It melts in the mouth along with the tender pieces of lamb.
I can barely finish my fries but the dessert (there is only one on the menu, which changes depending on availability) beckons. A slice of banoffee pie arrives which looks deceptively like a cheesecake. A thick layer of cream sits atop a crumbly biscuit base with pieces of banana, it’s rich and buttery and not a morsel is left on our plates.
The food at St. John’s House is simple yet comforting, and it’s reassuring in this era of fashionable gastro-pubs that the Chef has stuck to traditional pub grub rather than attempt ambitious gourmet food. Aside from the food and wine list there is an alluring selection of cocktails available – perhaps there is dancing late at night.
Leila reviewed St John’s House and The Secret Library on Wed 28 Apr 2010