st. john bar and restaurant in smithfield.

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When my brother visited last year, he took me out for a delicious dinner at St. John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields for my birthday. I’d been wanting to go back ever since so Micu and I finally made an impromptu dinner reservation, this time to St. John Bar and Restaurant in Smithfield.

St. John Bar and Restaurant, Smithfields

We weren’t hugely hungry so we picked a few small plates to share and one of the bigger dishes (plus dessert, of course!). To start with we had the veal terrine with chicory, crispy pig skin with radish and watercress, and roast bone marrow with parsley salad. We both found the terrine dish a little bland but the crispy pig skin was full of texture, freshness and flavour. The standout dish, however, was the roast bone marrow. It was next level. Served with lightly grilled sourdough bread, the marrow was fatty, rich and moreish. I was surprised by how much marrow there was in each of the bones (more than enough to slather the entire slice of toast) and how well the slightly smokey sourdough bread and parsley salad complemented it, especially considering I’m not a fan of parsley. Micu had been wanting to try this dish ever since he saw it on Anthony Bourdain’s show, who proclaimed it to be the butter of the Gods. Having now eaten it, I whole heartedly agree – I would go back for this wonderful dish time and time again.

We also shared the grilled ox heart with chips and aioli. I’ve had duck heart before at Fera at Claridge’s which was a standout dish, but I didn’t really know what to expect for the ox heart. I was worried it would be quite offaly but it was absolutely delicious. The heart was tender and juicy, and had the texture of a nicely marinated steak. The chips were perfectly cooked too – extra crispy on the outside and light and fluffy in the middle. All round, a really well executed dish.

I couldn’t resist ordering some freshly baked madeleines for dessert and Micu was keen to try the bread pudding with butterscotch sauce. The smell of the madeleines took me right back to my childhood where my brother and I used to buy them on weekends from the French patisserie at the end of our street. These ones were even better than I remembered because they came straight from the oven and had that glorious crispness on the outside that only comes when it is freshly baked. The bread pudding was nicely done too with melting vanilla ice cream, rich sticky sauce and dense fruity bread. A perfect winter dessert.

The thing I really liked about St. John is how unpretentious the vibe is; the staff are friendly, the service is relaxed but warm and the dishes are reasonably priced, especially by Michelin standards (our dinner came to about £55). The menu is ever-changing depending on what is in season and what fresh produce they have to hand, which is a good excuse to go back time and time again. Thankfully, the roast bone marrow is a constant feature on the menu!

While nose to tail eating isn’t for everyone, the dishes I have eaten at St. John both this time and last year have really helped to demonstrate just how delicious alternative cuts of meat can be. One thing is for sure, I’m keen to go back again and hopefully a little sooner than last time!

Inside St. John

The bar at St. John

The menu

Veal terrine with chicory
Veal terrine with chicory
Crispy pig skin, radishes & watercress
Crispy pig skin, radishes & watercress
Roast bone marrow & parsley salad
Roast bone marrow & parsley salad
Grilled ox heart with chips and aioli
Grilled ox heart with chips and aioli
Bread pudding & butterscotch sauce
Bread pudding & butterscotch sauce
Freshly baked Madeleines
Freshly baked Madeleines
The bakery at St. Johns
The bakery at St. John Bar and Restaurant
Outdoor dining
Outdoor dining
Smithfield meat market
Smithfield meat market

Photos by Micu and I.

© 2014 Fiona Tregeagle.

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