"Commit to the menu and go all out on nose to tail."Review Rating: Reviewed by T.A.O
One thing that is easy to forget about St. John is how informal and fun it can be in both the restaurant and the bar at its original Clerkenwell location. Despite the excellent quality of the food and the service, there is never anything like the stuffiness of some fine-dining outfits – and nose to tail or not, this is some fine dining.
The huge height of the atrium, the evidence of former industrial use in every corner and the utilitarian chic of the staff outfits gives St. John that hard to place chic appeal that seems to follow Fergus Henderson wherever he goes – we think it all starts with his glasses. Sat in front of the bar – we leave the restaurant for another occasion – we’re struck by the range of people that St. John attracts. Clerkenwell is a mishmash of industry these days and the bar here seems to attract them all. The appeal is that you can sample fine wine (bought in batches from small producers), good beer (Meantime takes over the taps on this occasion) and some gastronomically creative concoction that you won’t find elsewhere.
We eat the sunflower salad, ox liver and walnut and the famous Welsh rarebit, which is spoken highly of whenever St. John is brought up, although not quite as highly as the bone marrow. We can see why. The rich, thick molten mess of cheese, Worcester sauce and big-flavoured bread is an excellent bar snack to counter the pale ales on the side. The sunflower salad is something altogether daintier and reminds us of the St. John reputation for gastro invention, while the ox liver and walnut is a sweet, iron punch that almost outdoes the rarebit.
Turn up at 6pm on the dot for your best chance of getting a table in the bar or book ahead for the restaurant. The nose to tail phenomenon cultivated by St. John clearly remains popular and after our most recent visit here we’re reminded why.
T.A.O reviewed St John on Tue 20 Oct 2015Review disclosure: reviewed anonymously