Tuesday, 23 October 2012

St John, Smithfield

I took a wander from work one lunchtime last week to scope out the latest Burger & Lobster venture on St John Street.  I was happy to find St John, just around the corner from Smithfield's market, the former smokehouse which is both the original site and the administrative HQ of the empire.

I've been eager to visit for many years now and can't for the life of me justify why it took me so long but I shall definitely be returning, it's great to explore my new work area a bit more and discover that places I imagined might be too far to travel for lunch are actually just a stone's throw away.

Two of us walked in shortly before 1 o'clock and were seated immediately in the more formal raised dining area.  There's a casual bar area with a slightly different menu chalked on a board above the bar which I'm keen to try on my next visit, and a smaller room which is available for hire.

I drank only tap water which was presented in a jug, always excellent, and bread arrived promptly.  White and wholemeal sourdough, baked fresh on the Spitalfield premises.

We ordered 4 razor clams between us to start which came doused in a brilliant lemon garlic oil (not visible in this picture, but there was a lot of it lurking beneath the shells).  The bread proved to be the ideal vehicle to mop this up and I'd go so far as to say these are the nicest razor clams I've ever had.

An American colleague had recently been lauding the St John take on welsh rarebit and urged me to try.  I did, and this is what arrived.  LOOK AT IT!!

It was a beast, and so intensely cheesy that it defeated us.  Even the sharpness of the Worcestershire sauce didn't stand a chance to cut through the richness of the dairy hit.  It was a totally unnecessary side order but I'm really glad to have tried it at last.

For main I had the Arbroath smokie with parsnips.  The stand out thing about this dish for me was the sauce, it was smooth, buttery and creamy and a perfectly subtle complement to the deep smokiness of the haddock.  The smoky waft that filled the room once the dish arrived was pretty intense, prompting an approving nod from a neighbouring table.

Thomas had the pan fried skate and chips, which was beautifully delicate and served with a wedge of lemon and some tartar sauce.  In the fgd above is the side of sprout tops we shared.  In all, we totally overdid it for a weekday lunch, but I continue to be in equal parts surprised and impressed by the lunch options in the EC1 area. 

One thing I'd say is that there's a definite masculine air to the place, with lots of solo business diners reading their papers or perusing emails on their ipads.  From what I could tell, after twice walking through it, this is less so in the bar area and I think that more casual dining atmosphere appeals more to me.

All this came to just over £60 and around 90 minutes, but who cares about an extra half an hour here or there, when you're having such a good time?!

Incidentally, yesterday I visited the Burger & Lobster, just a few doors down and on a Monday lunchtime, it was pretty deserted.  It's a nice space though, and obviously, as they bed in, the place will very soon liven up, if what happened at the Soho branch is anything to go by.  The standard of the lobster roll was up there with those I've tried previously, and we got a free raspberry mousse for pud.  If you work in the area, get down there, and you probably need little, if any, coercing to visit St John.

St John
26 St John Street

St John (Farringdon) on Urbanspoon


Hollow Legs said...

I really like the bar at St John, they did this bacon, smoked eel and mash dish which was totally amazing. Those razor clams look ace.

Boo said...

Ooh, that sounds mega. Must get back there and check out the bar. They do doughnuts Thurs/Fri morning too, yes!