Not to be confused with THE St John in Farringdon, The St John Tavern in Archway was our chosen venue for lunch on Saturday after a slightly hectic trip to Borough Market. Hectic because it was ridiculously busy, if only I could take their advice and avoid the queues by going on a Thursday, alas, one has to work!
So in need of some calm we head up the road from where we live in Tufnell Park for a spot of pub grub by an open fire. We used to be frequent patrons at the St John but have not eaten there since Benj came to stay last September when I was incredibly impressed with the cod fritters and seafood stew I was served.
On Saturday we arrived, sat beside the fire and ordered first a glass of white wine and some tap water (the latter was actually offered rather than requested which is always nice). The wine arrived in enormous glasses which were filled to a 125ml marking.
Okay, so they were large, not enormous but they looked as though we were in need of a top up before we’d even begun. Bizarre. Thomas, naturally, enquired as to why they used such large glasses and the waitress (admittedly with good humour) agreed this was funny and offered to bring 2 more glasses, which we declined, adding also that at least it was cheap. Haha, I had to laugh though Thomas seemed less amused, which made me laugh more!
As for the food, I was tempted to have the fish soup, having read a rave review of the soup eaten here by Krista in her St John post. This was the artichoke soup though, not an option on Saturday and I felt like something heartier so went for the fish (plaice) and chips.
I loved it. The mushy peas were an added treat and the chips were thick cut and perfectly crisp yet a little soggy, just how I like them, with lots of vinegar, The tartare sauce too was very good, home made I suspect because it was far superior in flavour to any pre made ones I’ve ever had.
The fish was lightly battered and not too fatty and inside it was almost steamed and falling apart. It was just what I needed after the hustle and bustle of the market.
Thomas went for the char grilled ribeye steak which, in the Londonelicious review, did not go down well at all and this time it was similarly underwhelming.
We were puzzled by the limp watercress adorning the dish, the tomato was a nice addition but only to be expected really. The same chips as had accompanied the fish did little to make up for the disappointment of the steak and we confidently declared that we could do better at home.
We usually sit in the fancy bit of the bar (where the fire is). In this section a 12.5% service charge is added and bread is served shortly after you've ordered. I like that they offer the choice between this and a more informal style of dining. The main bar is usually louder and full. Then they always have the actual restaurant at the rear of the building.
In conclusion, the St John is a bit too hit and miss for me to give it the thumbs up. That said, I am usually impressed by my choices which are more often than not fish dishes and Thomas is usually less than satisfied. He prefers the nearby Lord Palmerston which is slightly more pricey but has outdoor seating and is perfect in summer for enjoying an al fresco jug of pimms. Bring on the warmer months (hoping there will actually be some!)
91 Junction Road, N19